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Novak Djokovic To Return To Play In First Tennis Tournament Since Deportation Next Month

Novak Djokovic may have been deported and missed the chance to defend his Australian Open crown - but the world No.1 can expect a much warmer reception when he makes his return to action in Dubai next month.

Djokovic's headline place in the star-studded field for the Dubai Tennis Championships was confirmed by the event organisers on Thursday.

And the Serb's return to action in February is doubtless going to be one of sport's show-stopping events following all the dramas of the past month.

The 20-time grand slam winner had his entry visa to Australia finally cancelled on the eve of the Open after a week and half of extraordinary drama.

Djokovic, who'd told officials he was not vaccinated against COVID-19, believed he'd been eligible to enter the country and compete after testing positive for coronavirus last month and making a full recovery.

But Dubai doesn't have the same strict conditions for entry as Australia, and Djokovic will be able to compete at the tournament he's won five times previously if he produces a negative PCR test result when he arrives.

He will face defending champion Aslan Karatsev and rising stars Andrey Rublev and Denis Shapovalov at the event which runs from February 21 to 26.

Felix Auger-Aliassime, Jannik Sinner and Gael Monfils, who've all enjoyed impressive campaigns in Melbourne in the champion's absence, have also entered Dubai.

It looks certain to be Djokovic's return to the tour as he is not included in the entry lists for the ATP events in Rotterdam or Rio de Janeiro beforehand.

"We are delighted to see Novak back in Dubai for the 12th time when he will be seeking his sixth title and we wish him the best of luck," said organisers.

It will be Djokovic's 12th appearance at the event, where only Roger Federer has won more times.

In the women's event, confirmed entries include world No.2 Aryna Sabalenka, world No.3 and defending champion Garbine Muguruza, and two-time Dubai winner Simona Halep.