Novak Djokovic arrived in Adelaide on Tuesday to begin his 2023 season, one year after the 21-time Grand Slam champion was deported from Australia due to the country's Covid-19-related restrictions.
Djokovic was initially banned from the country for three years after losing a high-stakes legal battle earlier this year over his vaccine status. The nine-time Australian Open champion Djokovic arrived in Melbourne in January for the first Grand Slam tournament of the year, claiming he had obtained a medical exemption to enter Australia without being vaccinated because he had recently recovered from Covid-19.
However, Australian border officials said he did not meet the requirements to be exempted from strict vaccination rules and he was detained for five days while pursuing an ultimately fruitless legal appeal.
Australia has since lifted its requirement for visitors to show proof of vaccination against Covid, and the government confirmed in November that Djokovic, who is not vaccinated, was no longer banned and had been granted a visa allowing him to play in the next Australian Open, which starts in January.
Tennis Australia chief executive Craig Tiley said he hoped local fans would embrace Djokovic's return.
"We welcome him back to Australia," he told reporters on Tuesday. "I have a great deal of confidence in the Australian public. I have a lot of confidence that the fans will react how we hope they will react."
After competing in the inaugural World Tennis League in Dubai last week, Djokovic will begin his 2023 season at the Adelaide International, starting on Sunday. He will be joined at the ATP 250 event by a strong field comprising world No 6 Felix Auger-Aliassime, former world No 1 Daniil Medvedev, eighth-ranked Andrey Rublev, and world No 15 Jannik Sinner.
"Over the years I've been really fortunate to start very strong in Australia and I love playing there," Djokovic said in Dubai last week.
"After obviously what happened earlier this year, hopefully I can have a decent reception there and hopefully that can help me play some good tennis."
Despite being limited to a restricted schedule in 2022 – which also meant missing the US Open – world No 5 Djokovic still won five titles, including Wimbledon for a seventh time, the Rome Masters, and the season-ending ATP Finals.