Djokovic takes to his usual court after legal ordeal to stay in Australia

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  • Novak Djokovic
    Novak Djokovic
    Serbian tennis player

World number one Novak Djokovic returned to a more familar court on Tuesday to step up his preparations for the defence of his Australian Open men's singles title.

The 34-year-old Serb went to Melbourne Park - the venue of the tournament - a day after winning a gruelling legal battle to stay in Australia.

Djokovic arrived last Wednesday night from Europe and was told that his visa was invalid because of the country's rules over vaccination.

He was sent to an immigration detention facility in Melbourne while his lawyers argued he had a right to enter the country after gaining a medical exemption from those regulations from two separate panels because he had tested positive for the coronavirus on 16 December.

A federal circuit judge agreed with Djokovic's team that the player had done what he had been told to do and on Monday ordered his release.

However, the immigration minister, Alex Hawke, has the power to override the court's ruling.

Decision

"It remains within immigration minister Hawke's discretion to consider cancelling Mr Djokovic's visa under his personal power of cancellation," his office said in a statement.

"The minister is currently considering the matter and the process remains ongoing."

As Hawke ponders his options, Djokovic said that he was concentrating on playing at the first Grand Slam event of the season and possibly winning a record 21st singles title to take him clear of rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

"I remain focused on that," said Djokovic, who is likely to face sustained hostility from thousands of fans who have suffered some of the world's severest anti-coronavirus pandemic lockdowns.

Focus

"I flew here to play at one of the most important events we have in front of the amazing fans," Djokovic said on social media.

Looking tanned and relaxed despite his ordeal in a notorious immigration hostel, he limbered up in a gym on Tuesday accompanied by coach Goran Ivanisevic before going into the players' area and heading for centre court at Melbourne Park.

Djokovic has claimed a record nine men's singles titles in Melbourne. He failed in his attempt to triumph at all four Grand Slam venues last year when Daniil Medvedev beat him in the final at the US Open in New York in September.

In Melbourne, Medvedev will be seeded to meet Djokovic in the final.

In the women's draw, the local heroine Ashleigh Barty is the top seed and will attempt to become the first Australian woman to win the tournament since Christine O'Neil in 1978.

Aryna Sabalenka, from Belarus, has been seeded second.

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