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Russian and Belarusian players can play the Australian Open for free

Russian and Belarusian players will be able to play as neutral players at the Australian Open, it has been confirmed.

Tennis authorities banned Russian and Belarusian players from international team competitions following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine earlier this year, but allowed them to play in regular tour events.

The French Open and US Open Grand Slams allowed them to compete as neutrals, although Wimbledon imposed an outright ban.

“At this point, Russian and Belarusian players are eligible to play at the Australian Open,” tournament director Craig Tiley said on Wednesday. “The only difference will be that they cannot represent Russia – they cannot represent the flag of Russia.

“They cannot participate in activities like the Anthem of Russia and have to play as independent players under a neutral name. But they will be welcome at the Australian Open in January.”

Belarus was used as a base for the Russian invasion, which Moscow describes as a “military special operation.”

Tiley also confirmed that nine-time champion Novak Djokovic would also be eligible if he could lift a visa ban as part of his January deportation.

The Serbian great was kicked out of the country for not being vaccinated against Covid and will not be allowed to re-enter until 2025, although the Australian government has discretion to waive the ban.

Tiley said he has not been in contact with the government about Djokovic and that the Australian Open organizers cannot champion the Serb.

“At this point … Novak and the federal government need to sort out the situation, and after that we will follow all directions,” Tiley said.

“It is not an issue for which we can lobby. It’s a thing that definitely stays between the two and depending on the result we would then welcome him to the Australian Open.”

Djokovic, who also missed the US Open due to his vaccination status, said last month he was waiting for “positive news” from Australian authorities.

However, former Australian Home Secretary Karen Andrews, an opposition lawmaker, said this week she opposed the government’s lifting of the ban on Djokovic, saying it was a “slap in the face” to vaccinated Australians.

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