Tennis Australia ‘deeply regrets’ impact of Novak Djokovic visa saga

Djokovic arrived home in Serbia on Monday following his deportation from Australia

Eleanor Crooks
Tuesday 18 January 2022 09:22
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Novak Djokovic arrives at Belgrade airport after being deported

Australian Open organisers issued a statement expressing deep regret at the Novak Djokovic fiasco – but without naming the world number one.

Tennis Australia chiefs have been heavily criticised for their part in the saga that saw the Serbian deported following two court hearings, after pushing for unvaccinated players to be allowed into the country.

Public opinion in Melbourne was firmly against Djokovic and others in the same boat being able to play but TA, led by chief executive and Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley secured exemptions to the strict rules from the Victorian government.

However, the federal government had a different view and Djokovic was stopped at the airport before being held in a detention hotel while Czech player Renata Voracova, an official and a coach were sent home.

There were only hours to go before the start of the tournament when Djokovic’s legal challenge was dismissed, and a number of players spoke of their unhappiness that one of tennis’ most important tournaments had been overshadowed in such a way.

TA chairman and president Jayne Hrdlicka pointedly did not mention Djokovic by name in a lengthy statement issued on behalf of the organisation’s board and member associations.

Hrdlicka said: “We would like to make clear from the outset that we respect the decision of the Immigration Minister and the finding of the Federal Court of Australia over the weekend.

“Australian Open 2022 has now commenced, and our priority has always been to put on one of the world’s greatest sporting events and ensure we are delivering the best possible experience for all our players, the fans, and the community.

“As the Australian tennis family, we recognise that recent events have been a significant distraction for everyone, and we deeply regret the impact this had on all players.

“Tennis Australia has been working closely with both the Federal and Victorian government for the past year to deliver a Covid-safe Australian Open for the players, staff, and fans.

“Embarking on a major international sporting event during a global pandemic that continues to evolve and challenge us all is profoundly demanding for all stakeholders.

“The board and member associations commend the Tennis Australia CEO and the entire Tennis Australia team for their hard work and dedication to delivering a spectacular summer of tennis.

As the Australian tennis family, we recognise that recent events have been a significant distraction for everyone, and we deeply regret the impact this had on all players.

Tennis Australia chairman and president Jayne Hrdlicka

“As the Australian tennis family, we recognise that recent events have been a significant distraction for everyone, and we deeply regret the impact this had on all players.

“There are always lessons to learn, and we will review all aspects of our preparation and implementation to inform our planning – as we do every year. That process always starts once the Australian Open champions have lifted their trophies.

“Australia has a strong and proud tennis tradition, and it has been fantastic to see the crowds out cheering for the world’s best players in the lead up to and over the opening days of the Australian Open.

“We, like the players, and all tennis fans here and around the world, are keen for the focus to now be on the game we are all so passionate about. We are looking forward to a brilliant two weeks of tennis ahead.”

Djokovic arrived back in Serbia on Monday and is not expected to make any public statements until after the tournament.

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