Novak Djokovic touches down ahead of Australian Open, 12 months after being deported

Twenty-one-time Grand Slam champion Novak Djokovic has touched down in Australia ahead of the first Major of 2023.

It was almost one year ago that the Serbian was deported from the country following a lengthy and messy battle with Australian authorities over his unvaccinated status.

Djokovic, a nine-time Australian Open, was then banned from Australia for three years after losing a high-stakes legal battle in January.

Australia has since lifted its requirement for visitors to show proof of vaccination against Covid, paving the way for his return.

Djokovic will begin the new season at the Adelaide International before heading to Melbourne where he will attempt to win a record 10th Australian Open title.

Tennis Australia chief executive Craig Tiley said he hoped local fans would embrace Djokovic's return.

Djokovic's resoluteness over the issue has split opinions. Some hailed him as a champion of bodily autonomy from the state, while others accused him of peddling dangerous views.

However, all of that is set to take a backseat to his on-court return.

While a mixed response from fans is possible, Djokovic is expected to enjoy his usual high levels of support from neutrals during the Australian Open season even if the wider public holds divergent views on the star.

"We welcome him back to Australia," Tiley told reporters.

"I think as we speak he's landing in Adelaide and I think that he is going to be again the player to beat.

"I have a great deal of confidence in the Australian public. I have a lot of confidence that the fans will react how we hope they will react."

Djokovic himself is cautiously optimistic about the reception he will receive in Australia.

"Over the years I've been really fortunate to start very strong in Australia and I love playing there," the world number five said in Dubai last week after ending 2022 with a record-equalling sixth ATP Tour Finals crown.

"After obviously what happened earlier this year, hopefully I can have a decent reception there and hopefully that can help me play some good tennis."

Djokovic last arrived in Melbourne in January for the first Grand Slam tournament of the year, after he had obtained a medical exemption to enter the Australian Open without being vaccinated because he had recently recovered from COVID-19.

However, Australian border officials said he did not meet the requirements to be exempted from strict vaccination rules and he was detained for five days while pursuing an ultimately futile appeal.

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