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Djokovic talks deportation on return to Australia

Djokovic was deported from Australia a year ago.Image: Keystone

A year after the huge drama surrounding his exile, Novak Djokovic is explaining himself again as he returns to Melbourne – and hopes he can finally put the issue behind him.

Speaking to the media was important to Djokovic because “a lot of people still have misconceptions about what happened”. He was released a year ago.

“I entered with the right documents and the right visa.”

Novak Djokovic

Three other tennis players were allowed to enter the country in previous weeks with the same special permit he had. Djokovic: “What many people don’t know or simply ignore: I followed the rules. I got an immigration-exempt visa, which was verified by Australian officials and several doctors. I entered with the right papers and the right visa. Then everything got out of control. The story got bigger and bigger. I was isolated, I couldn’t express myself. .”

“Covid”

A year ago, Djokovic was considered a “covidiate” in Australia, a security risk – one of the grounds for expulsion – and a thoroughly unlikable figure. A year later, could he understand the frustration of Australians at the time? “You have to say yes. It has been a disappointing two years for Australians who have been hit particularly hard by the crackdown. But I still have to say that the media has misrepresented things. I did not enter with questionable documents but with valid visa and medically justified exemption.

“It was also a valuable life experience.”

Novak Djokovic

When he arrived in Melbourne last Sunday, Djokovic passed the deportation hotel where he experienced horror a year ago. “Saga”, as he calls it, has caught up with him over and over for the past twelve months. “The first few weeks back home were particularly difficult. Even the well-meaning media were harsh on me. Then came the matches. And a question or two about Australia at every press conference.”

Successful return

One thing is clear to the 35-year-old Serb: “I remember being deported from Australia all my life. You can’t ignore something like this. I hope I never experience anything like this again. But it was also a valuable life experience. Now I want to look ahead.”

So far, nothing has obscured this vision of the future. Djokovic won his first tournament in Australia in Adelaide last week – despite calf problems. Australian fans are also paying tribute to Djokovic like never before. The Serb was enthusiastically celebrated in each of his appearances – even if he had to prematurely stop the match practice in front of the audience at the Rod Laver Arena against Daniil Medvedev after three games (at a score of 3: 1 for Djokovic).

epa10395400 Novak Djokovic of Serbia celebrates victory against Sebastian Gorda of the United States during their men's singles final match at the 2023 Adelaide International tennis tournament in Mem.

Djokovic won this year’s tournament in Adelaide.Image: Keystone

In Adelaide, two days later, Djokovic voluntarily waived the extra security guards assigned because of the “saga”. He felt very safe and comfortable, and he made several public appearances. “I don’t think I’ve ever felt so loved on a tennis court in my life as I did last week in Adelaide.”

Whistle and fly

At the Australian Open, organizers will no longer threaten Djokovic but will evict spectators “if fans disrupt the enjoyment of other fans”. Or in other words: Djokovic’s whistle-blower is flying in Melbourne from Monday! Djokovic cannot expect a problem in this regard after the first experiences after his return “down under”. (abu/sda)

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All of Novak Djokovic’s Grand Slam titles

Source: Keystone / Alastair Grant

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