TA boss Craig Tiley says Djokovic visa status a matter for federal government, while announcing Russian players can participate in 2023 Open as ‘neutrals’
Tennis Australia boss Craig Tiley says he will not lobby the federal government on Novak Djokovic’s behalf to try to help him into the country for January’s Australian Open.
He also revealed on Wednesday that TA has engaged external immigration specialists to help deal with the high number of visa applications expected from foreign players and their entourages for the first grand slam of 2023.
Djovokic is subject to a three-year ban from entering Australia, imposed by former immigration minister Alex Hawke because of his Covid-19 vaccination status. He was deported before this year’s tournament on the basis his presence as a “talisman of anti-vaccination sentiment” might risk “civil unrest”.
However, the 21-time major champion can apply for an exemption from Hawke’s Labor successor, Andrew Giles, and Djokovic said last month he was waiting for “positive news” from Australian authorities.
It is a prospect that former home affairs minister Karen Andrews this week said would be a “slap in the face” for vaccinated Australians.
Tiley was heavily criticised in January over Tennis Australia’s role in allowing Djokovic to fly to Melbourne under the belief that a medical exemption approved by the governing body and a Victorian government independent expert panel would be sufficient to enter Australia.
This time around, he said he would have no involvement in the fate of the nine-time Australian Open winner, who was also barred from entering this year’s US Open.
“What we’re saying at this point is that Novak and the federal government need to work out the situation, and then we’ll follow any instruction after that,” Tiley said at Wednesday’s Australian Open launch.
“I did spend some time with Novak at the Laver Cup. We spoke generally. He said that he’d obviously love to come back to Australia but he knows it’s going to be an ultimate decision for the federal government.
“He’s accepted that position. It’s a private matter between them. It’s not a matter we can lobby on.”
Tiley, who is also the tournament director, said he has had no communication with the federal government about Djokovic but added that his eligibility would “ideally” be resolved soon, with the December application deadline looming.
Melbourne Park officials are preparing for a hike in the number of applications from foreign players and their support staff, and Tiley said TA had hired a “a third-party resource” to handle visas.
“Bringing on additional external resources will help streamline the process moving forward,” he said. “Absolute Immigration is the name of the organisation and this is their expertise.
“The application of the visa is directly between the applicant and the federal government, and they grant that visa on the basis of that application. But that process is fairly significant when you have a large number of people during a short period of time.”
Tiley announced Russian and Belarusian players, who were controversially banned from contesting this year’s Wimbledon, will be allowed to compete at the Australian Open as neutrals in the same manner as the French Open and US Open.
“At this point, Russian and Belarusian players will be eligible to play in the Australian Open,” he said. “The only difference will be that they cannot represent Russia, cannot represent the flag of Russia.
“They cannot participate in any activity such as the anthem of Russia and they have to play as independent players under a neutral name. But they will be welcome to the Australian Open in January.”