Australian Open 2023: Novak Djokovic to reapply for visa to compete in Melbourne

Novak Djokovic plans to reapply for a visa to compete at the Australian Open in Melbourne next year. The world No. 1 opened up about the vaccination saga in January while speaking to media at the French Open.

Novak Djokovic has revealed he wants to reapply for a visa to return to play in the Australian Open in Melbourne in January.

Speaking at the French Open, the world No. 1 opened up on his vaccination saga that gripped the world.

Djokovic was detained by Australian Border Force officials on the eve of this year’s tournament after a furore surrounding his vaccination status.

The nine-time Australian Open champion was detained at the Park Hotel in Carlton alongside asylum seekers for 12 days as a legal battle raged in the Federal Court.

He said he kept close tabs on last week’s Federal Election.

Djokovic leaves the Park Hotel on January 16 in Melbourne earlier this year. Picture: Fedele/Getty
Djokovic leaves the Park Hotel on January 16 in Melbourne earlier this year. Picture: Fedele/Getty

But the 20-time major winner is unsure whether the election of Anthony Albanese as Australian Prime Minister will have an impact on his ability to enter Australia next January.

The law states he can be prevented from receiving another visa for three years unless he can prove there are compelling grounds for him to be granted another chance.

Djokovic, who faced a further storm when questions were raised as to the legitimacy of his claim to have had COVID-19 before Christmas, is hopeful of a reprieve now that former Prime Minister Scott Morrison has lost power.

“In terms of the government, yes, I heard the news,” he said.

“But I don’t know anything about whether my visa is going to be reinstated or whether I’m going to be allowed to come back to Australia.

“I would like to go there and play the Australian Open. I don’t hold any grudges. It was what it was.

“If I have an opportunity to go back to Australia and play in a place where I made the biggest success in my career in grand slams, I would love to come back.”

Djokovic is hopeful of a reprieve now that former Prime Minister Scott Morrison has lost power. Picture: Christophe Archambault / AFP
Djokovic is hopeful of a reprieve now that former Prime Minister Scott Morrison has lost power. Picture: Christophe Archambault / AFP

As Mr Morrison packed his bags and left The Lodge in Canberra, the world No. 1 has returned to grand slam action in Paris this week in impressive fashion.

The Serbian superstar, whose arrival in Australia polarised the public and prompted protests across Melbourne, is through to the fourth round alongside his great rival Rafael Nadal.

The 35-year-old, who was detained at Melbourne Airport under armed guard for almost nine hours after arriving from Dubai in early January, was shaken by the saga.

Djokovic initially refused to reveal his vaccination status but received late clearance to travel to Melbourne after he told Tennis Australia officials he contracted COVID-19 in December.

Then Immigration Minister Alex Hawke intervened, stating that a recent COVID-19 infection was not a valid reason for an unvaccinated person to enter Australia.

Hawke said he had cancelled Djokovic’s visa on “health and good order grounds, on the basis it was in the public interest to do so”.

As Djokovic was held in the Carlton hotel alongside fellow refugees, some of whom had been detained for more than nine years, a blame game erupted between Tennis Australia, the Federal Government and the Victorian Government.

It also sparked a furore in Serbia, with government officials and the general public outraged with the way their champion was being treated in Australia.

Novak Djokovic serves to Slovenia’s Aljaz Bedene during their men’s singles match on day six of the French Open on Saturday. Picture: Christophe Archambault / AFP
Novak Djokovic serves to Slovenia’s Aljaz Bedene during their men’s singles match on day six of the French Open on Saturday. Picture: Christophe Archambault / AFP

In a dramatic week, the baseline supremo won his initial injunction due to the “procedural unfairness” he was subjected to and headed to Melbourne Park for a midnight practice session on Rod Laver Arena.

But the extraordinary discretionary power Immigration Minister Hawke used to have Djokovic booted out of Australia on the eve of the tournament was ultimately upheld in a hearing of the full federal appeals court.

Tennis Australia promised a review into the Djokovic scandal and the circumstances which led to the star believing he had permission to come to Melbourne to play the tournament.

Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley, who is also the Tennis Australia chief executive, and the Board of the organisation headed by President Jayne Hrdlicka were heavily criticised as the champion lamented in hotel detention.

As a by-product of Djokovic’s detention, the spotlight was thrust on the men who had been kept in confinement at the Park Hotel for several years.

Tennis Australia promised a review into the Djokovic scandal and the circumstances which led to the star believing he had permission to come to Melbourne to play the tournament. Picture: Christophe Archambault / AFP
Tennis Australia promised a review into the Djokovic scandal and the circumstances which led to the star believing he had permission to come to Melbourne to play the tournament. Picture: Christophe Archambault / AFP

The last eight detainees were released from the hotel detention centre in April, with Djokovic delighted to hear that was the case given how difficult he found a week there. He had followed the story of Mehdi Ali, an Iranian refugee who spent nearly nine years in detention before being released in March and resettled in the United States.

“If that’s correct, then I’m obviously very happy about it, because I know that it was very difficult for them, particularly for the ones that stayed there for nine years,” he said.

“You know, I stayed there for a week, and I can’t imagine how they felt for nine years. They haven’t done anything wrong, and they are asylum seekers and stayed for nine years.

“That’s something I obviously did not understand why, but if I brought some light to that situation, then … in a positive way for them, for this to happen, then of course I’m very happy, because they got another chance in a different country.”

Djokovic, who lived through the Balkans War as a child as bombs fell on Belgrade, said his own saga rammed home to him the importance of freedom.

“We underestimate freedom,” he said.

“Until you actually live something like that and see what the circumstances are, then you don’t really have an idea of what it feels like when somebody strips away freedom from you.”

Originally published as Australian Open 2023: Novak Djokovic to reapply for visa to compete in Melbourne