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Novak Djokovic returns to Australia after a year-long ban for refusing the covid-19 vaccine. Can he win the Australian Open?

Having missed a great deal of the majors in 2022, you’d think he’d be rusty, but by all accounts the Serbian is in to win it.

Novak Djokovic returns to Australia after a year-long ban for refusing the covid-19 vaccine. Can he win the Australian Open?
Mark BrakeGetty

After a year in the wilderness, the Serbian tennis star is back on the circuit and of all places to begin, he’s going back to the one place that showed him the door, after he made his contentious covid-19 position clear, Australia.

Novak Djokovic returns to Australia

According to reports, Novak Djokovic is back in Australia in preparation for the upcoming Australian Open. As per Tennis Australia’s comments on Wednesday, Djokovic arrived in Adelaide on Tuesday night ahead of his 2023 debut in the Adelaide International on Sunday. This, is of course the first time that the Serbian has returned to the country, since he was deported almost a year ago following his refusal of the covid-19 vaccine. It is understood, that Djokovic was granted a visa last month, which will allow him to compete in both the tournament in Adelaide, as well as the Australian Open in Melbourne, which will commence on January 16th, 2023.

“Novak is welcome in Australia,” Australian Open director Craig Tiley said on Tuesday. “I think as we speak, he has landed in Adelaide and he’s going to be the player to beat [at the Australian Open] again.”

How did Novak Djokovic get here?

In the name of context, let’s take a quick look at the chronology of events that led to this moment because to be fair, they were quite something to behold. You may recall that it was the said same Australian Open in early 2022 which refused to allow his participation after his aforementioned refusal. At the time Australia required all visitors to the country to be vaccinated. Those requirements, as you can imagine have since been lifted. What’s even more noteworthy, is the fact that it was Djokic who won the 2021 Australian Open and was actually ranked No. 1 in the world when he was banned from last year’s event.

Though he did play in the French Open, there was no success to be had as he bowed out to Rafa Nadal in the quarterfinals. The Serb did manage to get his hands on some silverware that year and it was a big one, when he defeated Australia’s very own Nick Kyrgios in the final at Wimbledon. Having missed the U.S. Open Djokovic arrives in Australia ranked at No. 5 in the world. If you’re wondering when last he competed, that would be in Italy just last month at the Nitto ATP Finals. There, he was able to defeat Casper Rudd in the final to take his fifth title of the season.

How will Australia take to Novak Djokovic’s return?

To be clear, Djokovic’s vaccine stance drew immense criticism from not just the tennis fraternity, but the Australian public and even the wider world as well. With that said, he’s won the Australian Open a record nine times and at this point is the smart bet to do so in the ‘land down under’ once again. While you might think that could rub some folks the wrong way, Tiley believes it may not be the case.

“I have a great deal of confidence in the Australian public,” Tiley said. “We’re a very well-educated sporting public, particularly those who come to the tennis. They love their tennis, they love seeing greatness, they love seeing great athleticism, great matches. ...And I have a lot of confidence that the fans will react like we hope they would react and have respect for that.”


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