Novak Djokovic is welcome at Australian Open, says tournament director; Russian and Belarusian players can compete if they can get visas
By Simon Benson
5th August 2017, 3:02 pm
Updated: 5th August 2017, 3:27 pm
The news broke on Monday that Novak Djokovic will play at the Australian Open next month on a one-year exemption to the tour – a change of rules that should benefit a number of players.
Djokovic did some soul searching after deciding to withdraw from the French Open last month, having played in just five matches since June.
After playing the first one-day doubles event of the season in Australia earlier this month, Djokovic agreed to a one-year extension to his current deal with the ATP tour, which runs until the end of 2018.
The Serbian, who has never won a Grand Slam tournament, will be hoping for another victory before next year’s French Open – a tournament Djokovic has never won.
However, Australian Open executive director Andrew Gossman has said the decision to play will be made by the players themselves.
“The players want to play in the Australian Open, and they’ve played in many Grand Slam tournaments over the last couple of years,” Gossman told reporters at the Sydney Tennis Centre on Monday.
“You only have one right to decide when to play and one thing that we’re very satisfied with is that the players have had a dialogue with us about when they’re going to step up their game and play in major tournaments and when not.”
While Djokovic’s departure from the French Open was a huge shock to tennis, the decision to play at the Australian Open was not a surprise to Gossman.
Earlier this year, Rafael Nadal was forced to withdraw from the tournament after failing to gain a visa, with fellow members of the Spanish Davis Cup team also having to pull out over the issue.
A similar situation occurred last year with Juan Martin del Potro, who has struggled to gain a visa from the Russian tennis federation, and also did not want to play in Australia.
“I think they’ll find a way to play in Australia next month,” Gossman said of Djokovic’s players.
“I think a lot of people felt that even after the decision not to play in the last two events of the year, that in between the