Novak Djokovic looks set to return at the Dubai Tennis Championships next month following his deportation from Australia.
In a saga which gripped the world of tennis, the world No. 1 was detained on arrival in Melbourne after Australian border officials refused to accept the reasons for the medical exemption which was supposed to allow him to compete at the Australian Open despite being unvaccinated. His visa was revoked before the decision was overturned on appeal, but Australian Immigration Minister Alex Hawke then exercised his ministerial power to cancel Djokovic’s visa on public interest grounds.
When a last-ditch legal challenge failed, the 34-year-old was forced to leave Australia. He has kept a relatively low profile since, though he has spent time in Serbia and Montenegro.
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Djokovic will cede his Australian Open without a fight, with Rafael Nadal among the favourites to win the tournament. Were Nadal to triumph, he would go one ahead of his rival with 21 career Grand Slams.
The Serb is on the entry list for the ATP Tour event in Dubai, however, which could see him make his first appearance on court since being denied the chance to compete at Melbourne Park. Players do not need to be vaccinated against Covid-19 to enter the tournament, while vaccination is not mandatory when travelling to the United Arab Emirates.
Djokovic has regularly competed at the event before and is a five-time champion in Dubai. Only Roger Federer has won it more often, with eight titles to his name.
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In the long run, though, Djokovic’s refusal to get vaccinated could seriously hamper his ability to play at the most prestigious events.
His former coach, Boris Becker, has called his decision not to get the vaccine a “big mistake” while, speaking earlier this week, former British No. 1 Tim Henman said: “It would seem very difficult for him to continue with his professional career if he’s not double vaccinated, it would seem that he’s going to be pretty limited with the countries that he can get into.
“I would emphasise, it’s absolutely his prerogative, whether any individual wants to get vaccinated or not is his or her decision, but certainly as a tennis fan and seeing what Djokovic has been able to achieve on the court, I very much hope we see him back competing soon.”
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