Novak Djokovic looks at his racquet during a practice session ahead of the Australian Open at the Melbourne Park tennis centre in Melbourne on January 12, 2022.
CNN  — 

Novak Djokovic would be welcomed to play at the Australian Open if he can obtain a visa, according to tournament director Craig Tiley.

The former world No. 1 was deported from Australia in January following a prolonged saga, including time in detention, preventing his participation in this year’s Australian Open due to his refusal to get vaccinated for Covid-19.

Under Australian law, Djokovic could be banned from the country for three years due to the circumstances surrounding his deportation, though Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews didn’t rule out an exemption at the time.

Tiley said on Wednesday that the Australian Open were not able to lobby on Djokovic’s behalf on this matter, whilst explaining he has not been in contact with the Australian government about the 21-grand slam winner’s visa.

If Djokovic is able to obtain a visa, Tiley said the nine-time winner of the Australian Open would be permitted to play in the first grand slam of 2023.

“At this point, Novak and the federal government need to work out the situation and then we’ll follow any instruction after that,” Tiley told reporters.

“It’s not a matter we can lobby on. It’s a matter that definitely stays between the two of them and then depending on the outcome of that we would welcome him to the Australian Open.”

Tiley added: “(Djokovic) 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 but we’d like to welcome Novak back – he’s a nine-time champion – provided he gets the right entry requirements into Australia.”

The Serbian also didn’t play at this year’s US Open as he remains unvaccinated against Covid-19 and US rules at the time stipulated that any non-US citizen must be fully vaccinated against the virus in order to receive a visa and enter the country.

Djokovic holds the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup as he celebrates victory at the 2021 Australian Open.

Neutral flag

Tiley also said that Russian and Belarusian players will be allowed to participate under a neutral flag in the upcoming Australian Open.

Tennis authorities had prohibited athletes from both countries from competition at international team competitions following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine earlier this year – they were allowed to player at regular tour events.

While the French Open and the US Open allowed them to compete as neutrals, Wimbledon imposed an outright ban – then world No. 1 Daniil Medvedev was barred from competing as a result.

“At this point, Russian and Belarusian players will be eligible to play in the Australian Open,” Tiley 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.”

The 2023 Australian Open begins on Monday, January 16 in Melbourne.