Nine-time Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic expressed his relief at having his visa ban overturned, which means he will be allowed to compete in next year’s Australian Open.
The 35-year-old Serb, the most successful male player in the tournament’s history, missed this year’s tournament after he was detained and deported over his failure to have a Covid-19 vaccine.
Former world No 1 Djokovic was originally barred from the country until 2025, but that decision has been reversed by the Australian government.
“I was very happy to receive the news yesterday,” Djokovic, whose deportation dominated the build-up to this year’s Australian Open, said after his victory over Andrey Rublev at the ATP Finals in Turin on Wednesday.
“It was a relief obviously knowing what I and people closest to me in my life have been through this year with what happened in Australia and post-Australia obviously.
“I could not receive better news for sure – during this tournament as well. Australian Open has been my most successful Grand Slam. I made some of the best memories there.
“Did it affect my game today? I would like to believe it did. Why not? I don’t think it did affect me too much because I’m familiar with what I need to do in order to prepare myself for every match.
“Of course, knowing that I have clarity now, what I do in the off-season, starting the season in Australia, also of course it did relieve some of the pressure me and my team felt. Just giving that clarity makes it great for us.
“Of course, I want to go back there, I want to play tennis, do what I do best, hopefully have a great Australian summer.
“I’m always thankful to go through experiences, no matter what the experiences are. I try to be optimistic and positive in life. I look forward to starting the new year in Australia, and we’ll see how the next year goes.”
Tournament director Craig Tiley confirmed earlier this month that Djokovic would be welcome in January if he could get a visa, but that Tennis Australia was unable to lobby on his behalf.
In July, Australia scrapped a rule that required international travellers to declare their Covid vaccination status, and Djokovic said in October he had received “positive signs” about the status of efforts to overturn his ban.
Djokovic through to semi-finals of ATP Finals
Djokovic received the news on Tuesday and celebrated with a straight set victory over Rublev in Turin.
The 6-4 6-1 victory means the Serb has qualified for the semi-finals of the ATP Finals and described the result as one of his “best matches of the year”.
He edged the first set after forcing a break in the 10th game and dominated the second set. The five-time former ATP Finals champion awaits his opponent from the Green Group, which features Casper Ruud, Taylor Fritz, Felix Auger-Alissiame and Rafael Nadal.
Nadal currently sits bottom of the group after he lost to Fritz in the opener and Auger-Aliassime. The former world No 1 still has a slim chance of reaching the semi-finals but has to beat Ruud in straight sets, who is unbeaten in the opening matches and rely on other results to go his way.
In the Red Group, Stefanos Tsitsipas knocked out Daniil Medvedev in a three-set thriller.
The Greek world No 3 won the first set 6-3, but lost a second-set tie-break before taking the final set on a tie-break. Tsitsipas will face Rublev for a place in the semi-finals.
Briton Neal Skupski and his Dutch partner Wesley Koolhof lost 6-4 7-6 (3) to Croatian powerhouses Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic in their doubles rubber.
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