Novak Djokovic: has tennis ace had Covid vaccinations, what’s he said, will he play at Australian Open 2023?

Novak Djokovic was deported from Melbourne ahead of last year’s Australian Open but is set to compete in the 2023 Grand Slam after his visa ban was overturned

We are only one week away from the start of the Australian Open and first Grand Slam of the year. While much of the focus will be centred on whether Rafael Nadal can hold on to his 2022 title, Novak Djokovic’s return to the Australian shores will be hot on everyone’s lips following his ban last year.

Djokovic is the tournament’s most successful male player having won the competition nine times. He will not only be hoping to extend this to ten titles next January but in doing so, match Nadal’s record of 22 Grand Slams.

He had hoped to achieve the accolade last year but due to being unvaccinated, he was subsequently banned from entering the Australian state of Victoria.

So what happened last year and what has changed? Here is all you need to know ahead of the 2023 Australian Open

What happened in 2022?

Djokovic experienced a turbulent January when it was initially announced he had been granted a medical exemption to compete at the tournament only for this to be rescinded by the state of Victoria.

It was first believed he had provided sufficient evidence for having a Covid-related illness that exempted him from receiving the vaccine but upon further investigation, the timelines appeared not to add up and he was subsequently deported back to Serbia.

Djokovic during fourth round of 2021 Australian Open
Djokovic during fourth round of 2021 Australian Open
Djokovic during fourth round of 2021 Australian Open

The former world number one was also forced to miss other key tournaments, such as the US Open and other American tournaments as a result of his lack of vaccination and it would appear this could still be the case in 2023.

What changed in 2023?

Immigration Minister Andrew Giles - whose government came to power in May - overturned Djokovic’s visa in November. Speaking at the time it was announced, the Tennis Australia boss Craig Tiley said he was confident the Serbian tennis star would be able to play: “I know Novak wants to come and play and to get back to competing. He loves Australia and it’s where he’s had the best success.”

What has Novak Djokovic said about vaccinations?

In April 2020, Djokovic sparked widespread criticism when he spoke of his stance on vaccinations with former world number one Amelie Mauresmo.

He said he was “opposed to vaccination” and he “wouldn’t want to be forced by someone to take a vaccine in order to be able to travel.” Additionally, he added he was “curious about well-being and how we can empower our metabolism to be in the best shape to defend against impostors like Covid-19.”

Djokovic was asked recently about the possibility of him having to miss other future tournaments, such as the US Open in 2023, as well as other American tournaments he said: “I don’t think there’s anything official yet, so when it is we can speak about it.” He was then quizzed about the US stance on vaccines by reporters to which he responded: “I mean, if it is official then it is - what can I do? Nothing.

“You know my position, so it is what it is. I’m hoping (to play), but if I can’t go, I can’t go. That is the price that I’m willing to pay. I say that everybody has the right to choose or act or say or feel whatever is appropriate for them. The principles of decision-making on my body are more important than any title or anything else.

“I’m trying to be in tune with my body as much as I possibly can. I understand that there is a lot of criticism and I understand that people come out with different theories on how lucky I was or how convenient it is.”

When does the Australian Open start?

The Australian Open will commence on Monday 16 January and conclude with the women’s final on Saturday 28 January and the men’s final on Sunday 29 January. Discovery+ will show all of the action from Melbourne.