Tennis Australia says it regrets Djokovic ‘distraction’

Australia’s tennis governing body has expressed regret over the controversy surrounding tennis star Novak Djokovic’s eligibility to participate in the Australian Open.

Tennis Australia said in a statement Tuesday that it “respects” the immigration minister and Federal Court of Australia’s decision to dismiss Djokovic’s deportation appeal.

The Serbian tennis player filed the appeal after his visa was initially canceled earlier this month because he isn’t vaccinated against COVID-19.

Djokovic left Australia over the weekend after Australian Immigration Minister Alex Hawke again canceled Djokovic’s visa on Friday.

While not addressing Djokovic by name, Tennis Australia said, “we recognise that recent events have been a significant distraction for everyone, and we deeply regret the impact this had on all players.”

The statement added, “Embarking on a major international sporting event during a global pandemic that continues to evolve and challenge us all, is profoundly demanding for all stakeholders.”

The tournament began Monday without the top-ranked male player, to the chagrin of other star athletes including Spanish tennis star Rafael Nadal, who slammed the visa controversy as a “circus.”

Djokovic has won nine Australian Open titles — representing nearly half of his total Grand Slam titles.