Novak Djokovic has described having his Australian visa ban overturned as a great “new year present” as he gears up for a tilt at a record equalling Grand Slam win next January.
Djokovic, 35, was deported out of the country earlier this year just a day before the Australian Open began, following an explosive saga that plagued the build-up to the tournament. Having refused to be vaccinated against Covid-19, he was initially granted a medical exemption to fly to Melbourne.
But he was detained upon his arrival in Victoria after being found to have submitted false information on his immigration forms. Despite winning his initial appeal against the ruling, a second court decision deemed it "in the public interest" to cancel his visa, and he was duly handed a three-year ban from entering the country.
However, it was confirmed this week that Immigration Minister Andrew Giles had overturned the ban. And speaking at the ATP Finals in Turin, where the Serbian star has already sealed his progress to the knockout stages with two wins, Djokovic expressed his delight at the decision.
"In terms of your next question related to Australia, yes I received the news yesterday morning and I was very, very happy to hear that news," he told Eurosport. "It has been a tough year with everything that happened, obviously, in Australia for me and for the people who are close in my life.
"This came as a great new year present, I think, and I am looking forward to going to Australia and hopefully having another successful Australian Open, that has been historically my most successful Grand Slam. I had some of my best memories on that court. Hopefully, I can make more positive memories there."
Nine of Djokovic's 21 Grand Slam titles have come at the Rod Laver Arena, where he won three titles in a row before he was barred from competing last year. His last defeat in the tournament came in 2018, when he suffered a shock loss to Chung Hyeon.
The former world No 1 also missed the US Open last year, as well as tournaments in Miami and Indian Wells, over his belligerent stance on not being jabbed. Unlike January though, Australian travel rules now state that you do not need proof of vaccination to travel into the country.
Djokovic was speaking after a dominant straight sets win over Andrey Rublev in Italy. That followed his opening victory over Stefanos Tsitsipas, with the five-time champion seemingly well placed to prevail again following the exit of rival Rafael Nadal.