The world’s best tennis players are in Australia for the opening grand slam of 2022 – the Australian Open – but one key figure – Novak Djokovic – will be missing.
A dizzying political sage came to a close on Sunday when the Serbian was deported from Australia after losing his bid to stay in the country. Djokovic, who is unvaccinated against Covid-19, failed to overturn a decision from the government to cancel his visa on public health grounds.
With the world’s No 1 tennis player not allowed to stay and defend his title, that meant a late reshuffle of the men’s singles draw.
The rules for grand slam tournaments state the withdrawal of the top seed, after Monday’s order of play is released, means a lucky loser – someone who has lost in the final round of qualifying – comes into the draw. Salvatore Caruso, who is ranked 150th in the world, has replaced Djokovic and will play Serbia’s Miomir Kecmanovic.
From a British perspective, all eyes will be on Emma Raducanu who will play in her first grand slam since winning the US Open last September. However, the 19-year-old faces a tough opening match against Sloane Stephens, the world No 68, and could face No 14 seed Simona Halep in the third round.
The British No 1 will be under pressure to replicate her New York exploits in Melbourne but patience will be required as she works with a new coach, Torben Beltz.
In the men’s draw, Andy Murray was drawn against Nikoloz Basilashvili, whom he defeated in a thriller at the Sydney Tennis Classic on Wednesday, before finishing as runner-up at the Sydney Tennis Classic. Cameron Norrie, the British No 1, faces Sebastian Korda, while Dan Evans will meet David Goffin.
By Jeremy Wilson
Tennis Australia is ready to ramp up security for the start of the Australian Open ahead of expected protests over the dramatic deportation of nine-times champion Novak Djokovic.
After a week in which police clashed with protesters on the streets of Melbourne, anti-vaccine campaigners gathered outside Djokovic’s hotel, and hundreds of people descended on Melbourne Park with the message ‘Free Victoria, Release Novak’, analysts are predicting further “febrile” scenes.
There could be protests from what is a strong local Serbian community, or indeed from anti-vaccine activists who waved banners outside the gates of Melbourne Park on Saturday.
The Australian Government cancelled Djokovic’s visa on the grounds of “health and good order”, prompting the counter-argument from Djokovic’s team that ejecting the 20-times Grand Slam champion could have precisely the same impact.
A spokesperson for Tennis Australia told Telegraph Sport that security measures would be adjusted constantly to deal with the situation on the ground. “The safety and security of all our patrons, staff and players is paramount and our highest priority,” said the spokesperson. “Tennis Australia works in close conjunction and on an ongoing basis with the relevant authorities to plan and implement security measures at the Australian Open.”
Djokovic’s ejection from Australia, and his ongoing refusal to have the Covid-19 vaccination and the revelation that he broke Covid-19 isolation rules in Serbia, have also raised questions over his future schedule and sponsorship deals which are estimated at almost £22 million.
One commercial partner, Raiffeisen Bank International, told Telegraph Sport that they were “closely observing the current situation” after agreeing a multi-year deal with the 34-year-old last April.
It was pointed out that the agreement, which has seen Djokovic become a brand ambassador, “was made long before the current reporting on Novak Djokovic and his Covid-19 vaccination status, or his participation in the Australian Open” but that his sporting success and social commitment has made him hugely popular in Central and Easter Europe.
Hublot, Peugeot, Lacoste and Asics are among Djokovic’s other main sponsors. Peugeot said that they had “no comment” to provide while Hublot said last week that they would be sticking by the tennis star who “is his own person”.
When is the Australian Open?
The tournament gets underway on January 17 and concludes with the men’s final on January 30.
Where is the Australian Open?
The Australian Open takes place at Melbourne Park in Victoria.