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Djokovic back in Australia for first time since deportation

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The Serb will chase a record 10th title in Melbourne next month

Novak Djokovic has returned to Australia for the first time since being deported in January following a nasty row surrounding his Covid vaccine status.

Djokovic touched down in Adelaide on Tuesday and has already been seen training on the Memorial Drive courts ahead of the Adelaide International Tournament, which begins on Sunday.

Beyond that, Djokovic will be aiming for a record 10th title when the Australian Open kicks off in Melbourne on January 16.

The Serb had his three-year visa ban lifted by the Australian government in November, paving the way for him to return to a country where he has enjoyed immense success throughout his career.

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The 35-year-old had been threatened with not being able to return to Australia after being deported in January due to a dispute over his stance on vaccines.

Djokovic had arrived with a medical exemption to compete at the 2022 Australian Open – where he was the defending champion – after recovering from a Covid-19 infection.

But he was arrested upon arrival and eventually expelled from the country after a legal battle and government intervention.

Australian officials have claimed Djokovic’s refusal to get a coronavirus shot could spur “anti-vaccine” feeling inside the country.

However, Australia has since scrapped vaccination requirements for visitors and authorities have knocked down all barriers to Djokovic’s re-entry in November.

In Djokovic’s absence, Rafael Nadal won the 2022 title at Melbourne Park by defeating Russian Daniil Medvedev in the final.

Nadal has since won 22 Grand Slam titles with a victory at Roland Garros – one title ahead of Djokovic, who won his 21st Grand Slam successfully at Wimbledon this summer.

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As the Australian Open 2023 approaches, Tennis Australia boss Craig Tiley says he has “a lot of confidence” that the fans would welcome Djokovic with open arms.

“We are a very well-educated sporting public, especially those who come to tennis, they love their tennis, they love to see greatness, they love to see great sports, great games,” said Tiley.

“And I have a lot of confidence that the fans will react the way we hope they will react and respect that.”

Speaking after receiving his visa clearance in November, Djokovic said he was “very happy” return to Australia.

“I am always grateful to have experiences, whatever they are. I try to be optimistic and positive in life,” says Djokovic.

“I can’t wait to start the new year in Australia, and we’ll see how next year goes.”

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