Tennis Australia boss' big admission on Novak Djokovic's future

·Sports Reporter
·4-min read
Tennis Australia boss Craig Tiley says Novak Djokovic has every intention of returning to Australia next year for the 2023 Australian Open. Pictures: Getty Images
Tennis Australia boss Craig Tiley says Novak Djokovic has every intention of returning to Australia next year for the 2023 Australian Open. Pictures: Getty Images

Tennis Australia boss Craig Tiley says world No.1 Novak Djokovic intends to return to Melbourne Park for next year's Australian Open.

Djokovic was deported from Australia the night before the grand slam was due to begin after the Federal Court upheld the decision from Immigration Minister Alex Hawke to cancel the Serbian star's visa.

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Confusion reigned over what Djokovic called an 'exemption permission' which he believed would allow him to compete in the Australian Open, despite him not being vaccinated.

The week-long saga was the culmination of months of speculation over Djokovic's vaccination status.

In an interview with the ABC's Catherine Murphy, Tiley's first outside of tournament broadcaster Channel 9 since Djokovic was deported, he admitted there had been 'contradiction and complexity' in the information exchanged with the world No.1's camp.

"One or two bits of communication doesn't define all the amounts of communication that continued to go on leading into the event," Tiley said.

"We knew we were going to have a difficult period and that's why there was a lot of contradiction and complexity with information."

Tiley dodged questions about the rules for obtaining an exemption, with the rules around whether or not prior infection was grounds for exemption under the microscope.

Blaming the confusion on the shifting circumstances of Australia's Omicron outbreak, Tiley promised a full review into the saga at the end of the grand slam.

Tiley was also evasive when asked if the Tennis Australia board had put pressure on him to make allowances for big names such as Djokovic, describing getting players to enter as 'annual pressure'.

Most interestingly, Tiley offered a resounding 'yes' when asked if Djokovic would return in 12 months time.

"Obviously, he's got to play out this year, but that will be his intention," Tiley said.

"At the end of the day, he's the number one player in the world and he really loves the Australian Open."

Novak Djokovic camp savages 'unjust' treatment

His deportation was a bitterly disappointing blow for Djokovic, with the nine-time Australian Open winner vying for a record 21st men's grand slam title.

Instead, the 34-year-old has been left to contemplate his next move from afar as key rival Rafael Nadal has the chance to break the tie between himself, Djokovic and Roger Federer for the record.

Speaking on Serbian TV program Sport Klub, 15-year mentor of Djokovic's Marian Vajda said the 'unjust' decision had left the tennis superstar at a loss.

“I still don’t understand why they did it to him,” Vajda said.

“It was an unhealthy and unjust decision, based on the assumption that Djokovic could do or influence something that had not yet happened.

Novak Djokovic has been 'hurt mentally' by his deportation from Australia ahead of the Australian Open. (Photo by OSCAR DEL POZO/AFP via Getty Images)
Novak Djokovic has been 'hurt mentally' by his deportation from Australia ahead of the Australian Open. (Photo by OSCAR DEL POZO/AFP via Getty Images)

“I haven’t communicated with him since he arrived in Belgrade. It is clear that it hit him mentally, it will hurt him for a long time and it will be difficult to get it out of his head.

“I can’t imagine how he handled it. It must have been a huge suffering.”

Having witnessed the messy saga that was Djokovic's arrival at the Australian Open, the French parliament has passed a vaccine law that will require people to prove their vaccination status to enter almost all public spaces.

This will be extended to visiting players and their ability to enter the Roland Garros facility to play and train - prompting an angry salvo from Vajda.

He said it was unfair for the new law to be implemented when, in his words, 'the world doesn't know what will happen with the pandemic in a month'.

“I don’t understand … why it’s important for them to announce this now about the tournaments that will take place in May, when the world doesn’t even know what will happen to the pandemic in a month,” Vajda said.

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