Novak Djokovic Australian visa saga ‘damaging on all fronts’, ATP admits

The controversy surrounding Novak Djokovic’s entry into Australia has been “damaging on all fronts”, according to the men’s professional tennis tour.

In a statement, released after Djokovic won his appeal against deportation from the country on Monday, the ATP said they welcomed the outcome the hearing and expressed concern for the world No. 1’s well-being ahead of the Australian Open next week.

While Djokovic has been released from an immigration facility and says he is “focused” on defending his Australian Open title in Melbourne, after Judge Anthony Kelly quashed an order to cancel his visa following scrutiny over his medical exemption for the Covid vaccine, the threat of deportation still hangs over the Serbian.

The 34-year-old is still awaiting a verdict from Australian immigration minister Alex Hawke, who is considering whether to cancel his visa despite Djokovic’s victory in court.

The decision to grant Djokovic, who is unvaccinated, a medical exemption for the tournament caused controversy in Australia, which has seen some of the world’s strictest lockdowns and vaccination rules during the pandemic.

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“The ATP fully respects the sacrifices the people of Australia have made since the onset of Covid-19 and the stringent immigration policies that have been put in place,” the organisation said.

“Complications in recent days related to player entry into Australia have however highlighted the need for clearer understanding, communication and application of the rules.

“In travelling to Melbourne, it’s clear Novak Djokovic believed he had been granted a necessary medical exemption in order to comply with entry regulations.

“The series of events leading to Monday’s court hearing have been damaging on all fronts, including for Novak’s well-being and preparation for the Australian Open.

“Player medical exemption requests are made independently of ATP, however we have been in constant contact with Tennis Australia to seek clarity throughout this process.

“We welcome the outcome of Monday’s hearing and look forward to an exciting few weeks of tennis ahead.

“More broadly, ATP continues to strongly recommend vaccination for all players on the ATP Tour, which we believe is essential for our sport to navigate the pandemic.

“This is based on scientific evidence supporting the health benefits provided and to comply with global travel regulations, which we anticipate will become stricter over time.

“We are encouraged that 97 per cent of the Top 100 players are vaccinated leading into this year’s Australian Open.”

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Djokovic has retuned to training and has confirmed his intentions to defend his Australian Open title after he was released from an immigration facility, where he had been held since arriving in Australia last week.

Djokovic will move clear of Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal if he wins a 21st Grand Slam title in Melbourne this month.

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