Novak Djokovic, who says he would never get vaccinated for the coronavirus, says deportation from Australia will stay with him for the rest of his life.
Djokovic, 35, was detained and sent home in January due to his Covid-19 vaccine status while also receiving a three-year travel ban after trying to enter the country to compete at the Australian Open.
However, he managed to get the visa ban overturned visa in November and will compete in the 2023 edition.
The former world No 1, who had made it clear that he would not get the coronavirus vaccine even if it means missing tennis events, now says his willingness to return for next month’s Grand Slam at Melbourne Park shows the depth of feeling he has for the country.
“You can’t forget those events, it’s one of those things that stick with you,” said Djokovic in his first news conference since returning to Australia. “It stays with you for the rest of your life. It’s something I’ve never experienced before and hopefully never again, but it is a valuable life experience for me.”
“But I have to move on and coming back to Australia speaks about how I feel about this country and how I feel about playing here,” he added.
The 21-time grand slam champion has won nine Australian Open titles. He will warm up for the Australian Open by playing in the Adelaide International starting on Jan 1 and he is hoping for a warm reception from local fans.
“It’s a great place and the people in Adelaide, and generally in Australia, love tennis, love sports and it’s a sporting nation so hopefully we’re going to have a lot of people watching and we can have a good time,” Djokovic said.
“I’m hoping everything is going to be positive. Obviously, it’s not something that I can predict. I’ll do my best to play some good tennis and bring good emotions and good feelings to the crowd.”
Djokovic said his overall experience in Australia had not been soured by what happened in January. “What happened 12 months ago was not easy to digest for some time but at the same time I had to move on. Those circumstances will not replace what I have lived in Melbourne and in Australia throughout my entire career,” Djokovic said.
“So I come with positive emotions and I really look forward to playing there. It’s been my favorite Grand Slam, the results prove that.”