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Australia has overturned Novak Djokovic’s three-year ban and granted him a visa to play in the 2023 Australian Open.
“I was very happy to receive the news yesterday,” Djokovic said Wednesday at the ATP Finals.
Paul Karp of the Guardian first reported Tuesday that immigration minister Andrew Giles would rescind the ban Djokovic received in January when he was deported from Australia over his vaccination status. Australia has since changed governments, and Giles has taken over from previous immigration minister Alex Hawke, allowing Djokovic to reapply for a visa.
The 2022 season was mired with controversy for Djokovic over his refusal to take the COVID-19 vaccine. His issues began in Australia, as he initially arrived in the country believing he’d obtained a visa before the country reversed course and deported him, banning him for three years in the process.
“I consider that Mr. Djokovic’s ongoing presence in Australia may lead to an increase in anti-vaccination sentiment generated in the Australian community, potentially leading to an increase in civil unrest of the kind previously experienced in Australia with rallies and protests which may themselves be a source of community transmission,” then-immigration minister Alex Hawke said at the time.
Djokovic would go on to miss much of the 2022 season over his vaccination status. He was unable to enter the United States over vaccination rules, causing him to miss the U.S. Open and several other high-profile tournaments. After entering the year ranked as the world’s No. 1 player, Djokovic now sits eighth.
“I don’t have any regrets. I mean, I do feel sad that I wasn’t able to play [at the U.S. Open], but that was a decision that I made, and I knew what the consequences would be,” Djokovic told reporters in September. “So I accepted them, and that’s it.”
Australia no longer requires visitors to be vaccinated before entering the country.
Craig Tiley, the director of the Australian Open, recently said he’s hopeful Djokovic will be able to return to the event. Djokovic has won the Australian Open a record nine times. He had won three straight championships in Melbourne before being banned in 2022.