Novak Djokovic opens up on Australian Open deportation saga: 'It will stay with me forever'

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The Serbian tennis great gave a rare insight into his feelings about the messy saga that played out in Australia last year, which ultimately ended with him being deported from the country and banned from re-entry for three years. Djokovic arrived in Melbourne last January for the first Grand Slam tournament of the year after he had obtained a medical exemption to enter the Australian Open 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 before ultimately being deported and banned after pursuing an ultimately futile appeal. Australia has since lifted its requirement for visitors to show proof of vaccination against Covid, however, paving the way for his return. Djokovic touched down in Adelaide for the first time since his ordeal on Tuesday, and while he wants to put the events of a year ago behind him, he admitted it isn't easy. "Obviously what happened 12 months ago was not easy for me, for my family, or to anybody who's close to me, and it's obviously disappointing to leave the country like that," he told reporters on Thursday. "You don't forget those events. It's one of these things that sticks with you for the rest of your life. "It was, as I said, something that I've never experienced before and hopefully never again. But it is a valuable life experience for me and something that, as I said, will stay there, but I have to move on. "I always felt great in Australia. I've played my best tennis here, and received a lot of support, so hopefully I can have another great summer."

Djokovic is due to play in the Adelaide International beginning on Sunday, before bidding for a record 10th Australian Open title at Melbourne Park from 16-29 January. Tennis Australia chief executive Craig Tiley said he hoped local fans would embrace Djokovic's return. "I have a great deal of confidence in the Australian public," Mr Tiley said. "We're a very well-educated sporting public, particularly those who come to the tennis, they love their tennis, they love seeing greatness, they love seeing great athleticism, great matches. "And I have a lot of confidence that the fans will react like we hope they would react and have respect for that."

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