Serbian ace Novak Djokovic is welcome back in Australia but Russian tennis stars should be banned, according to former Liberal sports minister Richard Colbeck.
Colbeck, who was a senior government minister at the time of Djokovic’s deportation, said he believed world number seven Daniil Medvedev should be removed from the Australian Open tournament.
“I don’t have a problem with that (Djokovic) as it is a different time today to 12 months ago,” Colbeck told The Age newspaper. “The decision I question now is letting Medvedev play. I don’t reckon any of them (Russian players) should be playing.”
Colbeck defended the former Coalition government’s decision to deport then reigning Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic for his stance on vaccines, saying the rules had been clear.
He said Tennis Australia should have listened to his advice before encouraging the Serb to arrive in Australia at the beginning of 2022.
“I understand they wanted the world No.1 here,” he said. “There’s no hard feelings, but they ended up taking the wrong advice.”
Colbeck said he now had no problem with Djokovic being in Australia because the circumstances around Covid had changed.
But he argued that Russian players should not be here.
Tennis boss Craig Tiley was adamant that Russian players were welcome at the Open although they could not overtly represent Russia.
“They cannot participate in any activity such as the anthem of Russia and they have to play as independent players under a neutral name,” he said.
Colbeck said sporting organisations needed to send a message to the Russian people over the invasion of Ukraine.
“Sport is one of those things that can send a message to a country,” he said. “I’ve had that view for a long time. We can’t soften our stance on this stuff. The Russians are still doing outrageous things.”
The Albanese government has said it would not prevent Russian players from competing in the Australian Open.