Tennis star Novak Djokovic has returned to play the Australian Open. Will the public welcome him back?
HighlightsNovak Djokovic has been deported from Australia due to his COVID-19 vaccination status. His three-year ban was later overturned and this week he returned to Australia for the 2023 tournament. On Wednesday Djokovic said he cannot forget the ordeal, he is looking forward Novak Djokovic landed in Australia the last week to compete in the 2023 Australian Open after missing last year’s event and being sent off.
Now tournament organizers and Djokovic are optimistic about a ‘great summer’ ahead and fan support at the 2023 tournament, but is Australia ready to welcome him back?
What happened in 2022?
In January 2022, Djokovic arrived in Melbourne ahead of the Australian Open, but was taken into immigration detention and eventually had his visa revoked as then-immigration minister Alex Hawke used special powers to cancel Djokovic’s visa, saying it was in the public interest because the Serbian tennis star was a “talisman of anti-vaccination sentiment” and his presence could incite “civil unrest”. He was initially banned from returning to the country for three years, but was
Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley said he hopes fans will welcome Djokovic. “I have great faith in the Australian public,” Mr Tiley said. “We are a very well-educated sporting public, especially those who come to tennis, they love their tennis, they love to see greatness, they love to see great athleticism, great games.
On Thursday, Djokovic – who has won the Australian Open nine times – told reporters he can never forget the events that took place 12 months ago, he feels “good” in Australia.
“It was…something I had never experienced before and hopefully never again. But it is a valuable life experience for me and something that, as I said, will remain. there, but I have to move on,” he said. .
“I’ve always felt good in Australia. I’ve played my best tennis here and had a lot of support, so hopefully I can have another great summer.”
How are Serbian Australian tennis fans feeling?
For many Serbian-Australian tennis fans, their star’s visa debacle was a frustrating turn of events. Andrei Trickovic lives in Melbourne, and says that although he usually loves tennis, he chose not to watch the 2022 event due to Australia’s treatment of Djokovic.
“I think the viewership would have gone down… I didn’t watch it, and (the reason) I didn’t watch it was because they wouldn’t let Novak play,” he said .
“After he said he was allowed to come here, he did everything right and legally, even a judge said it was fine, then when he was overruled by the immigration minister…I know a lot of other fans who didn’t watch either.” Throughout the January debacle, Serbian fans showed their support for Djokovic outside his lawyer’s office in Melbourne and the Park Hotel where he was being held.
Mr Trickovic told SBS News while he thinks most Serbian Australians support Djokovic, there could be a mixed reaction from other Australians at this year’s tournament.
A protester holds a banner outside the Park Hotel calling for the release of refugees held inside the hotel in Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, Jan. 8, 2022. Credit: AAP, AP/Hamish Blair
“In the Serbian community there was support for Novak, but I didn’t feel it anywhere else in any other demographic in Australia when he became politicized,” he said.
“I feel like for people who already didn’t like him, it gave him a reason to like him even less,” he said.
What about the asylum seekers with whom Djokovic was detained?
Djokovic’s detention has also shone a spotlight on Australia’s immigration detention policies. At the time, in the hotel, which had previously reported finding maggots and mold in food, and said it had no access to gym facilities or washing machines following a fire.
The asylum seekers were released within months, with Djokovic expressing his support. “They didn’t do anything wrong, and they are asylum seekers and stayed for nine years,” he said.
“It’s something that I obviously didn’t understand why – but if I shed a positive light on this situation for them, for it to happen, then of course I’m very happy, because they had a another chance in another country.”
What was the reaction?
Australia’s COVID-19 restrictions are very different today than they were in January 2022. Since then, Australia no longer requires incoming travelers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or provide a COVID test -19 negative. was out in 2022, was asked about his rival’s return on Wednesday. “Novak is here. Good for tennis, good for probably the fans,” Nadal said.
“Let’s see, right? The best players on the field always win.