MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — A year after Novak Djokovic’s high-profile deportation from Australia Because he is not vaccinated against COVID-19, the 21-time Grand Slam champion is to be granted a visa to enter the country so that he can compete in the Australian Open in January.
The Australian Broadcasting Corp. said on Tuesday it had confirmed newspaper reports that the immigration minister would lift a possible three-year ban of the entry Djokovic, a 35-year-old from Serbia, faced as a foreign citizen whose visa was revoked.
The Australian Border Force previously said that in certain circumstances the time limit could be waived – and that each case would be judged on its merits.
Immigration Secretary Andrew Giles’ office declined to comment on privacy concerns.
Djokovic’s representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday. He is currently competing in the season-ending ATP Finals in Turin, Italy, where he won his opening match on Monday against Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-4, 7-6 (4) and will next play against Andrey Rublev on Wednesday and speak to the media.
After Monday’s win, Djokovic revealed his lawyers have been in touch with the Australian government in order to be able to contest him at the Australian Open, which takes place from January 16-29.
The nine-time Australian Open champion was barred from seeking a 10th title at Melbourne Park after a turbulent 10-day legal saga earlier this year because of his COVID-19 vaccination status, which culminated in his visa being revoked on the eve of the tournament.
Djokovic arrived at Melbourne Airport with a visa he obtained online via what he believed to be a valid medical exemption from the country’s strict laws regulating unvaccinated visitors. His bid was supported by Tennis Australia and the state government of Victoria, which is hosting the tournament.
Confusion reigned and made headlines around the world. As it turned out, that apparent medical exemption allowed him to take part in the tournament – which in theory required all players, fans and officials to be vaccinated against the coronavirus – but not necessarily entry into the country, and it was refused by the Australian Border Force.
Alex Hawke, then Australia’s Immigration Minister, used his discretionary powers to annul Djokovic’s visa on character grounds, saying he was a “talisman of an anti-vaccination community”.
Australia has since seen a change of government, changing its border rules this year. Since July, travelers no longer have to provide proof of vaccination against COVID-19. That removed the major barrier to entry for Djokovic, who says he hasn’t been – and won’t be – vaccinated against the coronavirus, even if it means missing major tennis tournaments.
In fact, he skipped September’s US Open and other events in the United States because he was unable to fly into the country as an unvaccinated foreign citizen. He was allowed to play at the French Open, where he lost in the quarterfinals, and at Wimbledon, which he won.
“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,” Djokovic said at the Laver Cup in London in September . “So I accepted her and that was it.”
Djokovic has spent more weeks at No. 1 in the ATP rankings than anyone, breaking Roger Federer’s record and is No. 8 at the moment, partly due to a lack of activity and partly because no ranking points have been awarded by anyone at Wimbledon this year.
Australia’s changes allowed Djokovic to apply to Giles for verification of his visa status. Two other factors spoke in Djokovic’s favor: he left Australia quickly after his visa was revoked 10 months ago and he has not publicly criticized the Australian authorities.
As the Home Office website explains, in Djokovic’s circumstances, applicants must explain in writing why the cut-off period should be lifted, saying: “You must demonstrate to us that there are compassionate or compelling circumstances to lift your re-entry ban and grant you the visa.” .”
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