Tiley distances himself from government ban on Djokovic, Russians and Belarusians to play Open as ‘neutrals’

After being at the center of one of world sport’s ugliest episodes of the year, Australian Open boss Craig Tiley is distancing himself from another potential Novak Djokovic visa saga.

Unvaccinated Djokovic is set to challenge a three-year visa ban in a bid to compete in the 2023 Grand Slam tournament after being sensationally deported on the eve of this year’s edition.

Locked down with refugees in a quarantine hotel, the former world No. 1 had his visa withdrawn by then-immigration minister Alex Hawke for his ability to ‘stir up anti-vax sentiment ” in Australia.

Tiley had been trying to secure a medical exemption for the nine-time Open champion, and faced immense pressure to resign from one or both of his jobs as the Open’s tournament director. Australia and chief executive of Tennis Australia (TA) over his involvement in the debacle.

He blamed miscommunication with federal authorities and the changing COVID-19 landscape on the visa drama.

But after weathering the storm to keep both roles, Tiley won’t push on behalf of the 21-time Grand Slam champion this time around.

Speaking at the launch of the 2023 tournament, Tiley said he would not be involved in the process.

“The matter with Novak is direct between him and the federal government,” Tiley told reporters on Wednesday.

“They need to sort out the situation and then we will follow all instructions.

“It is not an issue that we can lobby. It’s a matter that definitely remains between them and, depending on the outcome, we will welcome him to the Australian Open.”

Djokovic can seek an exemption from new Immigration Minister Andrew Giles.

Former home affairs boss Karen Andrews this week warned against the move, arguing it would be a “slap in the face” for Australians who have adhered to strict COVID-19 protocols for two years.

Tiley said he has so far had no communication with federal authorities about Djokovic, or requests for assistance in his attempt to overturn the ban.

The tournament director spent time during the recent Laver Cup with the Serb, who told him he wanted to return to Melbourne Park.

(Photo by Adam Davy/PA Images via Getty Images)

“He said he would like to come back to Australia, but he knows it will be an ultimate decision for the federal government,” Tiley said.

“He accepted this position. It’s a private matter between them, but we’d like to welcome Novak – he’s a nine-time champion – provided he meets the correct Australian entry requirements.

Tiley said TA had brought in outside immigration specialists to help deal with the demand from players and their entourages, with the number of applicants doubling from last year.

Meanwhile, after being controversially banned from Wimbledon, players from Russia and Belarus will be welcome at the Australian Open 2023 – but will not be allowed to compete under their countries’ flags.

Tiley confirmed that the ATP’s decision that players compete as “neutrals” following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will extend to the Open.

“At this point Russian and Belarusian players will be eligible to play at the Australian Open,” he said.

“The only difference will be that they cannot represent Russia – they cannot represent the flag of Russia.

“They cannot participate in any activity such as the anthem of Russia and they must play as independent players under a neutral name.”


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