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Aussie tennis boss responds to $6m Djokovic rumour

Author
news.com.au,
Publish Date
Sun, 23 Jan 2022, 2:44pm
Nine-time champion Novak Djokovic and Tennis Australia chief Craig Tiley. Photo / Getty
Nine-time champion Novak Djokovic and Tennis Australia chief Craig Tiley. Photo / Getty

Aussie tennis boss responds to $6m Djokovic rumour

Author
news.com.au,
Publish Date
Sun, 23 Jan 2022, 2:44pm

Tennis Australia boss Craig Tiley has again addressed the Novak Djokovic saga in media interviews on Sunday morning, denying the Serbian is suing TA and claiming he will be back in Melbourne next year. 

Djokovic was deported last Sunday after the Federal Court upheld immigration minister Alex Hawke's decision to cancel his visa. 

The unvaccinated world No. 1 and TA thought he had a valid medical exemption to enter the country because he had contracted Covid-19 in the past six months, but that wasn't the case and he was sent packing after his last-ditch legal challenge fell through. 

Reports emerged during the week Djokovic was "in talks" to sue for $6 million over his "ill treatment" but Tiley denied the 34-year-old was planning any legal action against TA. 

"No. I mean there is going to be lots of reports on different things but we … are focused on delivering an event right now, and we will continue to deliver a great event," Tiley told the ABC when asked about rumours of Djokovic planning to sue. 

Tiley reiterated TA was "constantly asking questions, asking for help" and "constantly sought that clarity" from relevant authorities about getting unvaccinated players like Djokovic into the country, but there was "so much complexity and so much contradiction". 

Many questioned why TA pushed ahead with getting Djokovic to Australia, especially after letters from federal health minister Greg Hunt to TA explaining contracting Covid in the past six months was not grounds for a vaccination exemption were made public. 

The TA chief said "forever-changing conditions" and miscommunication with the federal government contributed to the debacle. 

"It was an incredibly challenging environment," Tiley said. "One or two bits of communication doesn't define all the amounts of communication that continued to go on leading into the event. 

"We knew we were going to have a difficult period and that's why there was a lot of contradiction and complexity with information." 

Djokovic could be banned from Australia for three years because of his visa cancellation, but there are circumstances in which that can be waived. Tiley believes the 20-time grand slam champion will be back in Melbourne next year to try and win a 10th Australian Open title. 

"Yes," he told the ABC, when asked if Djokovic will come back to Australia. "Obviously I think he's got to play out this year but that will be his intention. 

"At the end of the day he's the number one player in the world and he loves the Australian Open." 

Tiley denied the saga played out because of extra pressure to get Djokovic Down Under and told Victorians who have suffered through the world's strictest lockdowns: "We have always and will always try to do the right thing and that won't change. 

"Never would we intend, or did we ever intend, to compromise safety." 

Appearing on WeekendToday, Tiley was asked if he had spoken to Djokovic "about this saga and do you know where he is at the moment?" The TA boss said he spoke to Djokovic during the messy affair but did not suggest he had been in contact with the tennis star since his deportation. 

"Just prior to Novak leaving we did talk and have a conversation as well as during the period of it," Tiley said. "There are reports that he is having some quiet time with his family." 

Tiley didn't admit outright TA would do things differently if it had its time over again, but said "we'll be able to answer that more specifically" once the organisation has its annual post-Australian Open review. 

Djokovic issued a measured statement after his final legal battle was quashed and he was sent on a plane back to Serbia, saying he was "extremely disappointed with the ruling". But his longtime coach Marian Vajda issued a more explosive response on Friday. 

"I still don't understand why they did it to him," Vajda told Sport Klub. "It was an unhealthy and unjust decision, based on the assumption that Djokovic could do or influence something that had not yet happened. 

"I haven't communicated with him since he arrived in Belgrade. It is clear that it hit him mentally, it will hurt him for a long time and it will be difficult to get it out of his head. 

"I can't imagine how he handled it. It must have been a huge suffering." 

Despite all he's endured in recent weeks, Vajda said Djokovic "is strong, resolute and has not yet said his last word in tennis".