Immigration Minister Alex Hawke has left the door ajar for Novak Djokovic to return to Melbourne for the 2023 Australian Open.
Djokovic was deported on the eve of this year’s Open last month after the Federal Court upheld Hawke’s decision to cancel his visa for a second time because the Serb wasn’t vaccinated.
Djokovic and Tennis Australia believed the world No.1 was eligible for a medical exemption to enter the country and compete because he had been infected with COVID-19 in December.
But despite winning his Federal Circuit Court case for initially having his visa cancelled, Djokovic was booted out upon Hawke’s personal intervention on the grounds that the tennis superstar’s perceived position could incite anti-vaccination protests.
The 34-year-old’s expulsion carries a three-year ban from re-entering Australia.
Under Australian law, anyone expelled from the country for three years following an adverse decision under section 133C(3), can apply for a waiver under “compelling” or “compassionate” circumstances.
When asked if the 20-times grand slam champion would be allowed back into Australia, Hawke on Wednesday said: “The future for Mr Djokovic is his to decide on how he conducts himself and what he does internationally.
“The Australian government has no further role in what he chooses to do.”
Asked if the three-year ban would be waived, Hawke said: “It means that a future decision-maker makes that (call) when receiving an application.
“It’s an important principle of law that I don’t bind a future decision-maker.
“We have indicated we would consider that, in the same way we would consider any others. We are very open to the consideration.”
Unless there is a dramatic change in requirements, Djokovic would still need to be vaccinated to contest the 2023 Australian Open.
And while he said he was open to being vaccinated, Djokovic was unequivocal in his stance during his first interview since the summer-long saga cruelled his chances of winning a 10th Australian Open last month.
Asked by the BBC if he was prepared to skip his French Open and Wimbledon title defences this year rather than being forced to get vaccinated, Djokovic said: “Yes. That is the price I am willing to pay.”