Defending champion and nine-time winner Novak Djokovic is the top seed in the men’s draw of the Australian Open, even as there remains doubt as to whether a government official will allow him to play.
Thursday’s draw was delayed more than an hour as questions remained over Djokovic’s status. He was quarantined when he arrived in Australia last Thursday and released on Monday after a judge reinstated his travel visa. He had been detained after authorities questioned the paperwork his team filled out to receive an exemption from a COVID-19 vaccination.
Immigration minister Alex Hawke is considering whether to revoke the permission. In court last week, the government’s lawyers said it remained within Hawke’s powers to cancel Djokovic’s visa, which The New York Times said would lead to an automatic three-year ban on Djokovic entering the country.
Should Djokovic, the world No. 1 player, be allowed to stay in the country, he will begin his quest to win a record 21st Grand Slam title against fellow Serbian Miomir Kecmanovic.
The Australian Open begins Monday.
Seeded second is world No. 2 Daniil Medvedev of Russia, with Alexander Zverev of Germany, Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece and Russian Andrey Rublev rounding out the first five seeds.
The No. 6 seed is Rafael Nadal of Spain, who is tied with Djokovic and Roger Federer of Switzerland with 20 Grand Slam wins. First up for Nadal will be American Marcos Giron.
Nadal is in the same grouping with Zverev and would have to defeat him in the quarterfinals if he were to meet Djokovic in the semifinals. Nadal has one just one Australian Open (2009).
Meanwhile, Djokovic remains a target of controversy in Australia, where it was announced Thursday that ticket sales for the tournament will be limited at 50 percent capacity for any sessions that already haven’t reached that level because of the soaring number of COVID-19 cases in the area.
Tsistipas, the world’s No. 4-ranked player, said Djokovic had been treated differently.
“There are two ways to look at it. One side of it is that almost every single player is fully vaccinated … and have followed the protocols to play in Australia,” he told WIO News of India. “On the other hand, it seems not everyone is playing by the rules. … A very small majority chose to follow their own way, which kind of makes the majority look like fools.”
Another tennis legend, Martina Navratilova, said Djokovic shouldn’t be in Australia.
“The best thing for Novak to do I think would be just say, ‘You know what, there are too many mistakes, this is not OK and the right thing to do is just to go home,” Navratilova, winner of 18 Grand Slam titles, told Channel 7 News in Australia on Thursday.
“It’s just the right thing to do, but I don’t think he will do that because he wants that 21st title.”
–Field Level Media