The decision to allow world No.1 Novak Djokovic to contest the Australian Open has won support from the peak men’s tennis body, who described the saga as “damaging on all fronts”.
The statement from the ATP came as Immigration Minister Alex Hawke was considering on Tuesday whether there were still grounds to cancel the Serb’s visa, after Monday’s court ruling.
It also followed the Djokovic family calling an abrupt end to a media briefing to celebrate his court win when they were grilled about the star’s actions in the days following his positive COVID test in December.
The ATP issued a statement on Tuesday that welcomed the court ruling that quashed the decision to block Djokovic’s entry into Australia.
“In travelling to Melbourne, it’s clear Novak Djokovic believed he had been granted a necessary medical exemption in order to comply with entry regulations,” the ATP said.
“The series of events leading to Monday’s court hearing have been damaging on all fronts, including for Novak’s well-being and preparation for the Australian Open.”
The ATP also called for greater clarity over the rules.
“The ATP fully respects the sacrifices the people of Australia have made since the onset of COVID-19 and the stringent immigration policies that have been put in place,” it said.
“Complications in recent days related to player entry into Australia have, however, highlighted the need for clearer understanding, communication and application of the rules.”
The ATP also urged all of its male players to get vaccinated, with 97 per cent of the top 100 already jabbed.
Within hours of being released from immigration detention on Monday evening, Novak Djokovic headed to Rod Laver Arena for a practice session in preparation for his planned Australian Open title defence.
The Serb was granted late night access to the court to loosen his limbs and reacquaint himself with his tennis racquets after spending almost a week under guard at a Melbourne detention hotel, and the day at his lawyers’ chambers listening to the court case.
Federal Circuit Court Judge Anthony Kelly said Djokovic was given insufficient time to speak to Tennis Australia officials and to lawyers to respond to being told of the intent to cancel his visa.
Tweeting a photograph of himself and his team on Melbourne Park’s main court, Djokovic wrote: “I’m pleased and grateful that the Judge overturned my visa cancellation. Despite all that has happened, I want to stay and try to compete @AustralianOpen. I remain focused on that. I flew here to play at one of the most important events we have in front of the amazing fans.
“For now I cannot say more but THANK YOU all for standing with me through all this and encouraging me to stay strong.”
Rafael Nadal, who is tied with Djokovic and Roger Federer on a record 20 grand slam titles, called the controversy “a circus” and said he supported the decision to allow his great rival to play in the Open.
“Whether or not I agree with Djokovic on some things, justice has spoken and has said that he has the right to participate in the Australian Open and I think it is the fairest decision to do so, if it has been resolved that way. I wish him the best of luck,” Nadal told Spanish radio Onda Cero.
However, nine-time Open champion Djokovic is still not certain of competing.
A spokesman for Immigration Minister Alex Hawke said on Tuesday he was “currently considering” whether there were still grounds to cancel the tennis star’s visa and “the process remains ongoing”.
Meanwhile, in Serbia, not long after Djokovic finished his practice in Melbourne, his family gave a press conference during which his mother, according to the BBC translator, said her son “was subjected to torture, to harassment. We will hear even more about what he has gone through”.
Dijana Djokovic also said: “This is his biggest win in his career, it is bigger than any grand slams.”
Brother Djordje Djokovic said: “He went to Australia to play tennis, to try and win the Open and win the record he has been chasing for so many years.”
“We love Australia, Novak loves Australia, he’s won it so many times, we will keep on coming back”.
But the briefing ended suddenly after half an hour, when the family was asked about Djokovic’s public appearances on December 17. They came just a day after he has said he had a positive COVID test, which he partly relied on for his medical exemption to play at the Australian Open.
“This press conference is adjourned,” Djordje Djokovic said.