Novak Djokovic through to ATP Finals semis after receiving visa for 2023 Australian Open

Former world No 1, who defeated Rublev to advance in Turin, was deported from Australia in January

Novak Djokovic celebrates his win over Andrey Rublev which booked his place in the semi-finals of the ATP Finals in Turin, Italy. EPA
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Novak Djokovic was given two reasons to celebrate on Wednesday evening after advancing to the semi-finals of the ATP Finals in Turin and receiving a visa to compete in the Australian Open next year.

Djokovic was deported from Australia in January after a 10-day legal battle over a medical exemption which the government deemed insufficient to allow him entry into the country amid strict Covid-19 guidelines.

As a consequence of his deportation, Djokovic was handed an automatic three-year ban, putting into doubt his future participation at a tournament where he is the record nine-time champion.

However, Djokovic revealed on Wednesday he has received a visa to travel to Melbourne to play in the 2023 Australian Open, news confirmed by Australia's immigration minister, who said he "personally" intervened to ensure the former world No 1 would be granted entry.

"I was very happy to receive the news yesterday. It was a relief," Djokovic said after beating Andrey Rublev 6-4, 6-1 in the ATP Finals in Turin.

"It was a relief obviously knowing what I and people closest to me in my life have been through this year with what happened in Australia and post-Australia obviously. I could not receive better news for sure, during this tournament as well."

Asked if the positive news had an impact on his performance, Djokovic said: "I would like to believe it did. Knowing that I have clarity now, what I do in the off-season, starting the season in Australia, also of course did relieve some of the pressure."

The 21-time major champion shattered Rublev's resistance in just a few games after taking the only break point either player had in the first set at 4-4.

Djokovic served out the set and then exploited Rublev's frustration to break again early in the second as he went 3-0 ahead and cruised to victory.

"One of the best matches I played this year, particularly in the second set," Djokovic said. "Just a flawless set really."

Having beaten Stefanos Tsitsipas in his first Red Group match on Monday, the Serb is guaranteed a spot in the last four regardless of his result on Friday against Daniil Medvedev.

"I'm really glad to be through to the semis," he said. "At the same time, I want to win that match, win every match that I play here."

Djokovic is ranked No 8 in the world in part because he missed tournaments, including the Australian Open and US Open, over his vaccination status, while his Wimbledon triumph garnered no ranking points over the tournament's decision to ban Russian and Belarusian players.

"The upside of not playing many tournaments is that you're going to be fresher than when you're playing a lot more," he said. "I had more time to train, to practice."

"Sometimes I do wish, in the pro men's tennis season, we have a bit more time to really have those training blocks to be a bit longer, so you can really work on your game and your body.

"I'm also at the position I think now in my career where I'm able to choose which tournaments I play and where I want to peak, at what time of the season."

"Obviously I missed a lot of big tournaments," he said. "But I can say I learned a lot this year about myself, about the world that I live in, and about some people as well who have behaved in a certain way to me in this whole process.

Tsitsipas beat Medvedev 6-3, 6-7, 7-6 in the late match to eliminate the Russian.

The Greek player, who was confirmed as the last player for next month's Mubadala World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi, was Finals champion in 2019 and will now play for a place in the semi-finals on Friday against Rublev.

Updated: November 17, 2022, 6:25 AM