Novak Djokovic intends to play the Australian Open in 2023, tournament chief Craig Tilly said on Sunday, blaming “miscommunication” for his relegation ahead of this year’s event. The world number one player’s visa was revoked ahead of the season-opening Grand Slam over the status of his COVID-19 vaccinations, an incident that affected the lead-up. He moved out of Melbourne a week ago after failing to aim for a record 21st major title after a protracted legal battle with the Australian authorities.
Tilly has kept a low profile since then, but asked on Sunday whether the unvaccinated Serbian planned to return for the 2023 tournament despite the possibility that his visa could be revoked for up to three years, he said. Answered: “Yes.”
“Obviously he got to play outside this year, but that would be his intention,” he told public broadcaster ABC.
“Finally, he’s the number one player in the world and he really loves the Australian Open.”
Djokovic’s longtime coach Marion Vajda said late last week that “the whole situation affected him mentally”.
“It will hurt him in the long run and it will be difficult to get it out of his head,” he told the Sport.sk website, blasting the “unjust political process” that led to Djokovic’s ouster.
Tilly blamed “forever changing circumstances” and “miscommunication” with the federal government for his exile after Djokovic was initially exempted from Tennis Australia’s chief medical officer.
The reason for this was that he had contracted COVID-19 in the last six months, but this was challenged and eventually had to be released after a legal battle.
Tilly said Tennis Australia had sought clarity from national officials on several occasions, but the evolving nature of the Omicron version meant that “there was a lot of contradiction and complexity with the information”.
“Even in the past week since (the ruling) government, things have changed with respect to the response to the pandemic,” Tilly said.
“We were at the beginning of Omicron and so we were constantly seeking clarity, and there was a lot of complexity and contradiction in before, after information and it continues all the way.”
Djokovic is now back in Serbia as his image is seriously damaged and his future unclear.
Reports have suggested he may sue Tennis Australia to recover his court and travel costs, but when asked whether legal action was expected, Tilly said: “No”.
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