Exclusive: Australia will overturn the Serbian tennis player’s three-year ban that accompanied his visa cancellation during the Covid pandemic
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Tennis star Novak Djokovic will be given a visa by the Australian government, allowing him to play the 2023 Australian Open.
Guardian Australia understands the immigration minister, Andrew Giles, will give Djokovic a visa, overturning a three-year ban that accompanied the decision by the previous government to cancel his visa on the eve of the 2022 open.
In January 2022 the then Coalition government revoked Djokovic’s visa on the grounds a recent Covid diagnosis did not justify an exemption to Australia’s requirement for visitors to be vaccinated.
Although Djokovic won a temporary reprieve in the federal circuit court, the then immigration minister, Alex Hawke, decided to cancel the visa on the basis Djokovic’s presence in Australia might risk “civil unrest” as he is “perceived by some as a talisman of a community of anti-vaccine sentiment”.
Djokovic lost a second federal court case, resulting in his deportation just days before he was to contest the tournament, seeking his 10th Australian Open crown in search of a record 21st grand slam title.
Australia has since overturned its requirement for visitors to be vaccinated. To overturn the three-year ban, the minister must be satisfied that compelling circumstances exist to let a person who had previously had their visa revoked to return.
“We are waiting,” he said. “They are communicating with the government of Australia. That’s all I can tell you for now.”
Earlier on Tuesday the director of the Australian Open, Craig Tiley, expressed optimism that the Serbian tennis star would be allowed into Australia to compete.
“There’s a normal visa application process that everyone is going through right now, and everyone will go through the right timing,” Tiley said.
“I don’t think there should be any preferential treatment for anyone. But I fully expect to have an answer for everyone by the time that they need to book their flights and come in, including Novak.
“That’s entirely up to the Australian government. I know Novak wants to come and play and to get back to competing.
“He loves Australia and it’s where he’s had the best success but the timing [on any announcement] is up to somebody else and we’ll just play that one by ear.
“He understands the circumstances and everything but he’s got to work it out with the federal government. I’m confident they’ll reach some arrangement and hopefully it’s positive.”
More to come
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