Australian Open: Djokovic included in draw as uncertainty continues (Ld)


Melbourne, Jan 13 (IANS) The Novak Djokovic visa saga in Australia continues even as World No 1 from Serbia was on Thursday drawn to start his campaign in the Australian Open against compatriot Miomir Kecmanovic, the World No 78.

Djokovic, who had reached Australia for the year’s first Grand Slam with a certificate claiming exemption from vaccination as he had tested positive for Covid-19 in December, had his visa cancelled by the Australian government before a Federal Court in the country intervened to give him respite.

There were still doubts over his participation in the event and there was intense speculation on Thursday when the draw ceremony for the event was delayed for some time. However, the organisers went ahead with the formalities with the Serbian’s name being included in the draw.

Djokovic, the nine-time Australian Open winner, is hoping to become the most successful player in the Grand Slam by claiming his 21st men’s singles title in the Australian Open, which starts on January 17, breaking a tie for most titles with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. He is likely to face his first seeded player — 25th ranked Lorenzo Sonego of Italy — in the third round.

Meanwhile, a decision is yet to come through from Australia’s Minister of Immigration Alex Hawke as to whether or not the top-seeded Serb and nine-time champion will be allowed to defend his title.

Second seed Daniil Medvedev of Russia will open his campaign against Henri Laaksonen of Switzerland, ranked 92nd in the world. Next up for Medvedev will be Australian hothead Nick Kyrgios, who has recently withdrawn from the Sydney International due to a Covid positive test and will open his Australian Open campaign against a qualifier if he recovers in time.

Other notable matchups include women’s world no.1 and top female seed, Ashleigh Barty who is set to face a qualifier in the first round. The Australian could face 2021 women’s singles champion and current world no. 14 Naomi Osaka in the fourth round.

Rafael Nadal, Spanish world no. 6 will face American world no. 66, Marcos Giron in round one while German world no. 3 Alexander Zverev was drawn against fellow German Altmaier Daniel.

Chinese player Zhang Shuai who won the tournament’s doubles championship with Australia’s Samantha Stosur in 2019 will play against Viktorija Golubic.

Earlier on Thursday the Victoria government and Tennis Australia announced that crowds would be capped at 50 percent for this year’s event due to the spiraling Omicron outbreak in the state.

All ticket sales would be paused at 50 percent of capacity for sessions that have not yet sold past that point.

“These updates to arrangements for the Australian Open will mean that fans, players and the workforce can look forward to a terrific COVID-safe event in Australia’s event capital,” Victorian Tourism Minister Jaala Pulford said in a statement.



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