Australian Open: Tennis Australia says it deeply regrets the impact of the Novak Djokovic saga on players

Djokovic returned to the Serbian capital Belgrade on Monday after his deportation from Australia put an end to the world’s No. 1 tennis player’s hopes of playing in the Australian Open.

The unvaccinated Djokovic was deported after losing his lawsuit against the Australian government’s decision to revoke his visa for public health and order reasons.

“We want to make it clear from the outset that we respect the decision of the Immigration Minister and the ruling of the Australian Federal Court over the weekend,” said the statement from Tennis Australia, which did not mention Djokovic’s name.

“Tennis Australia has worked closely with both the Federal and Victorian Governments over the past year to deliver a COVID-safe Australian Open for the players, staff and fans.

“Participating in a major international sporting event during a global pandemic that continues to evolve and challenge us all is very demanding for all stakeholders.”

‘Lessons to learn’

Under current Australian law, all international arrivals must be vaccinated against Covid-19 unless they have a medical exemption.

Djokovic said he was under the impression he could enter because two independent panels linked to Tennis Australia and the Victorian state government had granted him an exemption on the grounds that he was infected with Covid-19 in December.

The federal government argued that a previous infection with Covid-19 under its rules is not a valid reason for an exemption.

The Australian Open kicked off on Monday, but Saturday’s tournament media day was dominated by players being asked about Djokovic.

“As an Australian tennis family, we recognize that the recent events have been a significant distraction for everyone, and we deeply regret the impact this has had on all players,” the Tennis Australia statement added.

“There are always lessons to be learned, and we will be reviewing all aspects of our preparation and implementation to inform our schedule – as we do every year. That process always starts once the Australian Open champions have collected their trophies.”

Fans wave a Serbian flag as Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic arrives at Nikola Tesla Airport in Belgrade, Serbia, on Monday, January 17.

Had Djokovic played and won the Australian Open this year, he would have set a record for the 21st grand slam title in men’s singles.

“We, like the players and all tennis fans here and around the world, want the focus now to be on the game we are all so passionate about,” the statement from Tennis Australian continued. “We are looking forward to a brilliant two weeks of tennis ahead.”

The Australian Open ends on January 31.

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