There is finally some clarity about world No.1 Novak Djokovic’s involvement in the Australian tennis summer.
World No.1 Novak Djokovic has pulled out of the season-opening ATP Cup in Sydney, casting even greater doubt on his Australian Open involvement.
It is the first bit of clarity around Djokovic’s plans after a months-long saga where he refused to reveal his vaccination status or if he would play in Australia.
But the Serbian superstar is yet to say whether he will try to win a 10th grand slam title at Melbourne Park and record-breaking 21st overall.
All players planning to compete in the Australian Open or lead-in events must be fully vaccinated or have a medical exemption via a multi-step independent process.
Fellow grand slam champions Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem are also out of the ATP Cup, with Russians Andrey Rublev and Aslan Karatsev among the others to withdraw.
Ugo Humbert-led France has replaced Thiem’s Austria in the event.
Djokovic’s withdrawal follows a leading Serbian tabloid newspaper alleging that Tennis Australia was lobbying the Victorian government to enable him and others to play at the Australian Open.
A translated version of a report in Blicstated that TA was trying to organise an exemption for Djokovic that would enable him to avoid being vaccinated.
The report also claimed tournament sources told the newspaper that Victorian government authorities were close to making a decision on “special rules” for several top players, including Djokovic.
TA issued a statement to News Corp about Blic’s story, saying: “Regarding the medical exemption process, which pertains to all players, there is a rigorous and independent process in place.
“As with all medical information, it is subject to confidentiality.”
TA chief executive and Australian Open boss Craig Tiley has consistently said he was unaware of any medical condition that would enable Djokovic to be exempt and would not ask if he was vaccinated.
“We want to have the best players here, so I’d love to have Novak at the event,” Tiley said last week.
“We always want to have that – it doesn’t matter who it is. But there are conditions of entry, so if he meets those conditions, great. If he doesn’t, it’s unfortunate.”
Tiley said “a very small percentage” of incoming tennis people – none of them players – had informed him their medical exemption application was successful.
Djokovic was supposed to face fellow top-10 star Casper Ruud in Serbia’s ATP Cup opener against Norway in Sydney on Saturday night.
Serbia’s other ATP Cup players are top-50 singles pair Dusan Lajovic and Filip Krajinovic and doubles specialists Nikola Cacic and Matej Sabanov.
Nikola Milojevic, ranked No.138, is Djokovic’s potential replacement.
Meanwhile, French tennis player Benoit Paire revealed on social media that he had tested positive to Covid-19 again, after contracting the virus on the eve of last year’s US Open.
Paire joins Nadal, Andrey Rublev, Denis Shapovalov, Belinda Bencic, Ons Jabeur and Emma Raducanu in testing positive this month.
Elsewhere, Australians Alex Bolt, Thanasi Kokkinakis and Storm Sanders have received Adelaide International wildcards, while Nick Kyrgios scored one into the Sydney Tennis Classic.
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