Djokovic request made by Aus Open boss as Serb arrives Down Under

Novak Djokovic speaks ahead of Laver Cup appearance

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Australian Open chief Craig Tiley has requested that the public welcome Novak Djokovic to Adelaide with open arms ahead of the tournament getting underway in January. The Serb has now touched down in the country after being deported earlier this year over a well-publicised Covid spat. 

Almost 12 months ago Djokovic was granted a special exemption to compete at the 2022 Australian Open, despite being unvaccinated and the general public’s subjection to strict regulations. Fierce debate saw the saga quickly escalate and become major global news. 

The 21-time Grand Slam champion was held in an immigration centre while the ordeal was sorted in the courts and the Australian government ultimately decided to deny his entry into the country. Djokovic’s ability to compete at future Australian Opens was thrown into jeopardy by his deportation, which came with a three-year ban. 

However, with the global Covid pandemic at an entirely different stage now than it was a year ago, Australia have backtracked on the ban and created safe passage for Djokovic to try and win back his title, which he has claimed on a staggering nine prior occasions. 

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With the tournament set to begin in mid-January, Djokovic has reportedly touched down in Australia and tournament chief Craig Tiley has called on members of the public to give him a warm reception. 

“We welcome him back to Australia,” he insisted. “I think as we speak he’s landing in Adelaide and I think that he is going to be again the player to beat. I have a great deal of confidence in the Australian public. I have a lot of confidence that the fans will react how we hope they will react.”

Djokovic himself was also hopeful that the public could look past the drama earlier this year. “Over the years I’ve been really fortunate to start very strong in Australia and I love playing there,” the world number five said in Dubai last week. “After obviously what happened earlier this year, hopefully I can have a decent reception there and hopefully that can help me play some good tennis.”

The 35-year-old kick-started his Grand Slam spree at the Australian Open in 2008 and he would have to wait another three years before getting his hands on another major title. Since then, he has mounted a ferocious challenge to the all-time list and he currently sits one behind Rafael Nadal, who has 22. 

Nadal capitalised on Djokovic’s absence earlier this year by powering to victory in Melbourne – his first triumph Down Under since 2009. He went on to win the French Open, too, extending his lead over Djokovic who ran into complications over his unvaccinated status. 

“[Missing Grand Slams] is the price that I’m willing to pay,” he told the BBC in February, before confirming that he would also be prepared to miss Wimbledon if his entry depended on getting the vaccine. “The principles of decision-making on my body are more important than any title or anything else,” he added. 

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