MELBOURNE, Australia – Novak Djokovic now knows he will face fellow Serbian Miomir Kikmanovic in the first round of his Australian Open title defense, if allowed to play.
Djokovic’s visa status dominated attention until Thursday’s draw for the men’s and women’s singles draw arcs for the first major tennis tournament of 2022.
Australia’s immigration minister is still considering whether to leave the nine-time Australian Open champion and self-defense champion, who has not been vaccinated against COVID-19.
So Djokovic is still forgotten.
Djokovic, the top-ranked, had his visa revoked on arrival in Melbourne last week when his vaccination exemption was called into question, but he won a legal battle on procedural grounds that allowed him to remain in the country.
Immigration Minister Alex Hook has been looking into the matter since a judge returned Djokovic’s visa on Monday.
Expectations were raised about a pending decision on Thursday when Prime Minister Scott Morrison called a news conference this afternoon after the national cabinet meeting. Speculation mounted when the tournament draw was pushed back 75 minutes to a time after Morrison’s press conference.
But the wait continued after both events ended, as Morrison referred questions regarding Djokovic to the immigration minister.
“These are personal ministerial powers that Secretary Hook can exercise and I do not intend to make any further comment at this time,” Morrison said.
Australian Open director Craig Tiley also declined to comment after the draw ceremony.
Djokovic, 34, has been trying to focus his attention on the field in the four days since his release from immigration detention. He held a training session at Rod Laver Arena, his fourth this week, in the middle of the afternoon.
If allowed to stay, his bid for the No. 21 men’s main title would start against 78th seed Kecmanovic, and could mean a quarter-final against 7th seed Matteo Berrettini and possibly a semi-final against Rafael Nadal or third seed Alexander Zverev, both of whom are on the lower side of his half in a tie. .
On the women’s side, top seed Ash Party and defending champion Naomi Osaka ended up in the same section of the draw, meaning two of the tournament’s top players could meet in a fourth-round match that looks like a final.
Osaka, ranked number one, slipped down the list due to her lack of matches in 2021 and is ranked 13th.
The withdrawal was delayed amid uncertainty over Djokovic’s visa status. It was scheduled to take place at 3pm local time in Melbourne, but a tournament official told waiting media that the concert had been postponed until further notice and declined further comment. It was later changed to 4:15 p.m. local time.
The Australian Open starts on Monday. Djokovic traveled to Australia in pursuit of a 21st Grand Slam title, breaking the men’s record of 20 titles with Roger Federer and Nadal.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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