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

Djokovic arrived back in 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 cancel his visa for reasons of public health and order.

“We would like to make it clear from the outset that we respect the decision of the Minister of Immigration and the conclusion of the Federal Court of Australia this weekend,” said the Tennis Australia statement, 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 players, staff and fans.

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

Novak Djokovic is pictured after landing in Belgrade, Serbia, on Monday 17 January.

‘Lessons to learn’

Under current Australian law, all international arrivals are required to be vaccinated against Covid-19 unless they have a medical dispensation.

Djokovic said he was under the impression he could attend because two independent panels affiliated with Tennis Australia and the Victorian state government had granted him a waiver on the grounds that he had been infected with Covid-19 in December.

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

The Australian Open started on Monday, but the media day of the tournament on Saturday was dominated by players asked about Djokovic.

“As the Australian tennis family, we recognize that recent events have been a significant distraction for all 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 review all aspects of our preparation and implementation to inform our planning – as we do every year. That process always starts once the Australian Open champions have lifted their trophies.”

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

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

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

The Australian Open ends on 31 January.

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