Novak Djokovic returns to Australia one year after deportation

ADELAIDE, Australia — Novak Djokovic has arrived in Australia nearly a year after he was deported for his anti-vaccination stance against Covid-19, Tennis Australia confirmed Wednesday.

Djokovic will open his 2023 campaign in Adelaide as he prepares for a shot at his 10th Australian Open title.

The 21-time Grand Slam winner has received a visa from the Australian government and is listed to play at the Adelaide International, which begins on Sunday.

The 35-year-old Serb arrived in Adelaide on Tuesday evening, the governing body confirmed.

Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley indicated at a press conference on Tuesday that Djokovic had arrived.

“Novak is welcome in Australia,” Tiley said. “I think as we speak, he’s landed in Adelaide and he’s going to be the player to beat (at the Australian Open) again.”

The Australian Open will take place from January 16 to 29 in Melbourne.

Djokovic missed the Grand Slam last year due to his refusal to get vaccinated against Covid-19. Australia has since lifted strict rules for unvaccinated travelers.

Immigration Minister Andrew Giles confirmed last month that Djokovic, who was facing a possible three-year ban after being deported, has been granted a visa.

Djokovic has won the Australian Open nine times, including the last three times he has played. Rafael Nadal won the 2022 title in Djokovic’s absence.

“Over the years, I’ve been very lucky to start very strong in Australia and I love playing there,” Djokovic said in Dubai last week at an exhibition tournament. “Obviously after what happened earlier this year, I hope I can get a decent reception there and hopefully that can help me play some good tennis.”

But questions remain about how Australian fans will receive Djokovic. Tiley told reporters on Tuesday that he believed Djokovic would be well received.

“I have a lot of confidence in the Australian public,” Tiley said. “We are a highly educated sports audience, especially those who come to tennis. They love their tennis, they love to see greatness, they love to see great athletics, great matches.

“And I’m very confident that the fans will react as we expect them to react and have respect for that.”