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  • Babajide EverBlazin

Djokovic, Russian and Belarusian players to participate in 2023 Australian Open

Novak Djokovic alongside Russian and Belarusian players on the ATP and WTA Tours are “welcome” to play at the 2023 Australian Open, according to tournament director Craig Tiley.

The Serbian great was kicked out of the country for not being vaccinated against COVID-19 and is barred from re-entering until 2025, though the Australian government can waive the ban at its discretion.

Djokovic, who also missed the U.S. Open over his vaccination status, said last month he was waiting for “positive news” from Australian authorities. read more

However, Australia’s former Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews, an opposition lawmaker, said this week she was opposed to the government lifting Djokovic’s ban, saying it would be a “slap in the face” for Australians who have been vaccinated.

Meanwhile, players from Russia and Belarus were banned from competing at grass-court events in the United Kingdomg this year including Wimbledon following Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine in February.

The move did not go down well with tennis authorities as the ATP and WTA retaliated by stripping Wimbledon of ranking points, much to the dismay of those who competed at the grass-court Grand Slam and those who were banned.

Players from Russia and Belarus were free to compete at the French Open and US Open, meaning the All England Club and Lawn Tennis Association who followed a UK government directive were essentially on their own when it came to banning individual players.

The International Tennis Federation did bar the Russia and the Belarus teams from competing in the Davis Cup Finals and the Billie Jean King Cup Finals, but all other organisations allowed them to compete as individuals with the Russian and Belarusian flags and anthems banned.

Tiley says Tennis Australia will stick to that position for next year’s tournaments in Australia, including the season-opening Grand Slam.

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

“The only difference will be that they cannot represent Russia – they 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 will take place from January 16-29 at Melbourne Park, but Australia will host several other events in the lead-up to the hard-court Grand Slam.

The season is expected to start with a new mixed-teams tournament, similar to the now defunct Hopman Cup, with Sydney likely to play host while Adelaide, Brisbane and Hobart are also set to stage ATP and WTA events.

Tiley, though, didn’t divulge too much about the revamped Australian schedule.

“We hope to have our major cities have a major event, a different event, a one of a kind,” he said. “We will make that announcement when we are ready to make that announcement.”

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