Novak Djokovic has confirmed he will play at the Australian Open next year, saying he is “very happy” that his visa ban has been lifted.
The nine-time Serbian champion was deported ahead of this year’s event after his visa was canceled in a row due to his Covid vaccine status.
He was automatically banned from entering Australia for three years, but learned on Tuesday a visa would be granted.
“I couldn’t get better news,” said the 21-time Grand Slam champion.
Speaking to reporters at the ATP Finals in Turin after reaching the semi-finals, the former world number one added: “It was obviously a relief to know what me and the closest people of me have lived this year with what happened in Australia, and after Australia of course.
“[The] The Australian Open was my most successful Grand Slam tournament. I made some of the best memories there.
“Of course I want to go back, I want to play tennis, do what I do best, I hope to have a great Australian summer.”
When Djokovic arrived in Australia in January, Covid cases were skyrocketing and government rules required anyone entering the country to be vaccinated unless they had a valid drug exemption.
He did not meet the entry requirements, the government said, so his visa was canceled and he was automatically not allowed to return to Australia until 2025.
But Immigration Minister Andrew Giles – whose government came to power in May – overturned the ban.
Djokovic’s detention and ejection grabbed headlines in the run-up to this year’s Australian Open.
Many people in Australia applauded the decision, but it also sparked an outcry among supporters who gathered outside his hotel, as well as in Serbia.
Djokovic “flawless” on his way to the semi-finals
Just hours after learning he could compete in Australia in January, Djokovic was on the court putting on a clinical display against Andrey Rublev to reach the semi-finals of the ATP Finals.
He didn’t face a single break point in a 6-4 6-1 win over the Russian, who occasionally smashed his racquet on the floor in the face of 69 minutes of ruthless tennis.
Djokovic made the breakthrough against Rublev in the 10th game to win the first set before embarking on what he described as a “flawless” second set.
“I played very, very well,” Djokovic, 35, said during his on-court interview.
“One of the best games of the year without a doubt against an always tough opponent. It was an incredible performance.”
Later on Wednesday, Stefanos Tsitsipas beat Daniil Medvedev in the other red group game to secure his first victory.
Tsitsipas of Greece defeated Medvedev 6-3 6-7 7-6 (7-1). Djokovic will face Medvedev in his final group game on Friday.
The season-ending ATP Finals feature the top eight men’s players of the season and Djokovic is looking to win the event for a record sixth time.
But 22-time major winner Rafael Nadal’s hopes of a first title ended on Tuesday when he lost to Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime.
In doubles, Britain’s Neal Skupski and his Dutch partner Wesley Koolhof were beaten 6-4 7-6 (7-3) by Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic in their second group match, while Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis of Australia beat Croatians Ivan Dodig and American Partner Austin Krajicek 3-6 6-4 10-6.
The victory moved the Croatians through to the semi-finals, but world number ones Skupski and Koolhof will still have the chance to join them when they face Dodig and Krajicek in their final round-robin match on Friday.