Novak Djokovic’s hopes of defending the Australian Open title are in serious doubt after he was re-arrested in Melbourne on Saturday, just two days before the start of the Grand Slam. He has come under fire after Australian authorities revoked his visa for the second time and publicly declared the world number one without a vaccine a threat because of his views on the issue. A Serbian court hearing is set to begin on Sunday as Serbia fights deportation.
The AFP Sport looks at where the Australian Open comes from:
– Is Djokovic still in the draw? –
The 34-year-old is chasing a record-breaking 21st Grand Slam win, making him the most successful male tennis player in history. He was ranked top and remains in a draw to face fellow Serbian Miomir Kekmanovic, ranked 78th in the world, in the first round on Monday. He is expected to play at Road Laver Arena, the largest venue in Melbourne Park.
– What if he is deported? –
If he is deported, the Australian Open will lose its defending champions. It doesn’t make a big change in the draw, but it will need to be rearranged. According to the rules, the most likely outcome would be that the fifth-ranked, in this case, would replace Andrei Rublev, Djokovic of Russia. In terms of championship favorites, second-seeded Daniel Medvedev will be seen in pole position with 20-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal in Djokovic’s absence. Roger Federer is injured and not there.
– And if he plays? –
Of all his slam achievements, winning the crown this time around would be the most extraordinary, given the badly disrupted build-up, including several nights at Djokovic’s detention center. He will also need to ignore the hostile crowd if he plays – his actions have made him the number one public enemy in a city that has suffered one of the longest coward lockdowns in the world.
– What did the Australian Open say? –
Tennis Australia, which hosts the Grand Slam, has refused to be publicly involved as the saga continues. TA has been accused of misleading players about the need for the Covid-19 vaccine to enter the country. Australian media have called for the release of tournament chief Craig Tiley – who has remained largely silent.
– What does the tournament do now? –
Not much, he sits and waits like everyone else for Sunday’s court hearing. Paul McNemy, a former director of the Australian Open, said the so-called “happy slam” was in the “barrier”.