Novak Djokovic declares 2023 Australian Open return is ‘out of my hands’ despite new COVID-19 vaccine travel rules


Novak Djokovic is still awaiting news on whether he will be allowed to return to the Australian Open in January after missing the tournament this year due to not being vaccinated against COVID-19.

“It’s really not in my hands now,” Djokovic said on Thursday at the Laver Cup.

“So I hope to get positive news.”

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Djokovic is a 21-time Grand Slam singles champion – a total tally second among men only behind Rafael Nadal’s 22 and one ahead of Roger Federer’s 20 – and he has won nine of those trophies at Melbourne Park.

But he was deported from Australia last January after a 10-day legal saga that culminated in the revocation of his visa. He was originally granted an exemption from strict vaccination rules by two medical bodies and Tennis Australia to play at the Australian Open.

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Australia has meanwhile changed its border rules – since July 6, travelers no longer have to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccinations or even a negative COVID test.

The Australian Border Force said after Djokovic’s visa was annulled, “a person whose visa has been annulled may be subject to a three-year cut-off period preventing the issuance of another temporary visa”.

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However, it added: “The cut-off period is considered part of each new visa application and may be waived in certain circumstances, bearing in mind that each case will be assessed on its own merits.”

Novak Djokovic still hopes to play at the Australian Open next year. Recognition: Getty

A spokesman for Tennis Australia said on Friday that a decision on Djokovic’s visa for the January 16-29, 2023 tournament was not for him to make.

The 35-year-old Serb insists he will not receive any vaccinations to protect against the virus, even if it means missing tennis events.

He missed two of this season’s four Grand Slam tournaments, including the US Open, which ended this month.

The United States and Canada currently ban foreign citizens who have not received COVID-19 vaccines from entering the country, and he also missed four other events in North America in 2022.

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Djokovic made it to France, where he lost to Rafael Nadal in the quarterfinals at the French Open in June, and England, where he won the title at Wimbledon in July.

The Laver Cup, which begins on Friday, is Djokovic’s first competition since Wimbledon.

“I regret nothing. I mean, I’m sad that I couldn’t play (at the US Open) but that was a decision I made and I knew what the consequences would be,” he said Thursday.

“So I accepted her and that was it.”

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