The director of the Australian Open has blamed “miscommunication” for Novak Djokovic’s deportation prior to the start of this year’s Grand Slam tournament but said the world No. 1 intends to play in 2023.
Djokovic returned to Serbia after his visa was canceled ahead of the start of the Australian Open over his COVID-19 vaccination status.
He flew out of Melbourne a week ago after his attempt to overturn Australia’s decision to cancel his visa failed in court, scuttling his hopes to compete for a record 21st major title.
Tournament director Craig Tiley was asked on January 23 whether the unvaccinated player planned to return for the 2023 tournament despite the possibility that his visa could be revoked for up to three years.
“Obviously, he’s got to play out this year, but that will be his intention,” Tiley said.
Tiley blamed “forever-changing conditions” and “miscommunication” with the federal government for Djokovic’s deportation after he was initially granted an exemption from Tennis Australia’s chief medical officer.
“It was an incredibly challenging environment,” Tiley said, adding that Tennis Australia sought clarity multiple times from national authorities, but the evolving nature of the omicron variant meant that “there was a lot of contradiction and complexity with information.”
Tiley also refuted reports that Djokovic intends to sue Tennis Australia.
“There is going to be lots of reports on different things, but we are in a position as we focus on delivering an event right now, and we will continue to deliver a great event,” he told public broadcaster ABC.
Djokovic has won the Australian Open nine times, including last year.
“At the end of the day, he’s the No. 1 player in the world and he really loves the Australian Open,” Tiley said.
Djokovic’s longtime coach, Marian Vajda, late last week said the situation hit Djokovic mentally.
“It will hurt him for a long time and it will be difficult to get it out of his head,” he told the Sport.sk website, while blasting the “unjust political process” that led to Djokovic being turned away.