Novak Djokovic has spoken for the first time since it was confirmed that the three-year suspension of his Australian visa would be lifted.
Djokovic was sensationally booted from the country in a controversial saga at the start of this year that threatened to overshadow the 2022 Australian Open – historically his most successful grand slam.
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But on Tuesday, the federal government was satisfied that there were compelling circumstances that existed to backflip on the decision to revoke Djokovic’s visa, and his return to the calendar year’s first grand slam was confirmed.
The nine-time Australian Open champion has spoken for the first time since the decision, saying he plans to enjoy “a great Australian summer”.
The Serbian all-time tennis great revealed on Wednesday that he was “very happy” to receive the news that would allow him to go for a record-extending 10th Australian Open title.
“I was very happy to receive the news yesterday,” said Djokovic, who’d been held in a detention centre for attempting to enter the country while not vaccinated before being deported amid a legal battle.
Speaking in Turin after defeating Andrey Rublev at the ATP Finals, the Serbian said it is a weight off his shoulders.
“It’s a relief, obviously knowing what I and people closest to me in my life have been through this year with what happened in Australia and post-Australia obviously,” he said.
“I could not receive better news for sure – during this tournament as well. Australian Open has been my most successful grand slams. I made some of the best memories there.
“Of course, I want to go back there, I want to play tennis, do what I do best, hopefully have a great Australian summer.
“I’m always thankful to go through experiences, no matter what the experiences are. I try to be optimistic and positive in life.
“I look forward to starting the new year in Australia, and we’ll see how the next year goes.”
The news came before Djokovic produced one of his performances of the year to outplay Rublev 6-4 6-1 to qualify for the semi-finals of the season-ending event – and he thought it may have helped his game out on court.
“Did it affect my game today? I would like to believe it did. Why not? I don’t think it did affect me too much because I’m familiar with what I need to do in order to prepare myself for every match,” he said.
“Of course, knowing that I have clarity now, what I do in the off-season, starting the season in Australia, also of course it did relieve some of the pressure me and my team felt. Just giving that clarity makes it great for us.”
The return of Djokovic had looked on the cards ever since July when Australia scrapped its rule requiring visitors from overseas to declare their COVID vaccination status.
And the Serb himself had commented earlier in the week that he had received positive signs about the overturning of the ban and a potential return.
Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley had said Djokovic would be welcome back if he could get a visa, but that Tennis Australia couldn’t lobby on his behalf.
After missing the Australian Open and US Open over his COVID-19 stance, the still-unvaccinated Djokovic will now be able to shoot for Rafael Nadal’s Melbourne crown while also attempting to equal the Spaniard’s men’s record of 22 grand slam crowns.
– With AAP