Tennis Australia insist no loopholes are being explored after Djokovic is named on Australian Open entry list

By Sports Desk December 08, 2021

Novak Djokovic has been included in the official entry list for the 2022 Australian Open, with Tennis Australia adamant that no loopholes are being explored.

The world number one, who has won nine of his 20 grand slam titles in Melbourne, has not yet disclosed his COVID-19 vaccination status, meaning there is doubt over whether he will be able to participate.

Every person competing or attending the grand slam next month will need to have been fully vaccinated against coronavirus.

However, despite the uncertainty, the 34-year-old was named in the official list of players for the tournament draw.

Djokovic had already been named in Serbia's team for the ATP Cup, which is to be held in Sydney, leading to speculation that he could enter Australia by travelling directly to New South Wales, which has different COVID-19 restrictions to the state of Victoria, and may then seek a medical exemption to get around the rules applying to unvaccinated travellers.

James Merlino, Victoria's deputy premier, responded to these reports, which also suggested Djokovic had the backing of Tennis Australia.

"My view on this is really clear and really simple," Merlino said on Wednesday. "Everyone's looking forward to the Australian Open and everyone who will attend – spectators, players, officials, staff – everyone is expected to be fully vaccinated.

"They're the rules. Medical exemptions are just that – it's not a loophole for privileged tennis players. It is a medical exemption in exceptional circumstances if you have an acute medical condition."

Tennis Australia responded to Merlino's comments with a statement of their own.

"Any suggestion that Tennis Australia is seeking 'loopholes' within this process is simply untrue. Adjudicating on medical exemptions is the domain of independent medical experts. We are not in a position to influence this process and nor would we," the statement read.

"Any application for a medical exemption must follow strict government guidelines based on ATAGI (Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation) clinical advice. This is the same process that applies to any person wanting to enter Australia."

While Djokovic's participation is unclear, Serena Williams is a big-name absentee. The 40-year-old, who is one shy of matching Margaret Court's record tally of 23 grand slams, had been expected to play in Melbourne.

Roger Federer had already confirmed his absence, but Rafael Nadal is set to compete for the first time since August.

World number two and US Open champion Daniil Medvedev takes his place in the draw, as does 2020 Australian Open finalist Dominic Thiem.

Australian world number one Ash Barty headlines the women's field, with Naomi Osaka, US Open winner Emma Raducanu and WTA Finals champion Garbine Muguruza also in the draw.

Bianca Andreescu, the 2019 US Open champion, has decided to skip the event to focus on her mental wellbeing.

Related items

  • Novak Djokovic has mixed feelings over Rafael Nadal’s French Open absence Novak Djokovic has mixed feelings over Rafael Nadal’s French Open absence

    The absence of his great rival Rafael Nadal from the French Open draw has left Novak Djokovic with mixed feelings as he chases more history at Roland Garros.

    The Serbian can become the first man to win 23 grand slam singles titles if he lifts the Coupe des Mousquetaires for the third time in a fortnight.

    Djokovic is the only player to beat Nadal twice at Roland Garros but he has also lost eight times to the Spaniard, including in three finals.

     

    View this post on Instagram

    A post shared by Roland-Garros (@rolandgarros)

     

    “I don’t miss him being in the draw,” he said with a smile as he reflected on the hip problem that has kept Nadal out since January and prompted his announcement earlier this month that next season is set to be his swansong.

    “I don’t like seeing him in the draw of Roland Garros. I have had not so much success against him. I have managed to beat him twice but I had to leave my heart and my guts out on the court to achieve that.”

    Nadal and Djokovic have played each other 59 times, more than any two men in ATP Tour history, and the Serbian said: “When he announced that he’s going to have his last season of his career, I felt part of me is leaving with him too.

    “Because of the rivalry that we had, and that we still have, I feel that he was one of the most impactful people that I have ever had in my career, the growth of my career, and me as a player.

    “Definitely a great motivational factor for me to keep playing and keep competing and keep pushing each other, who’s going to achieve more, who’s going to do better.

    “It made me think about my career and how long I’m going to play. I’m not going to make any announcement today, but just reflecting on it, I felt also a little bit emotional about what he was saying.”

    Djokovic now finds himself fighting a lone battle against a host of young pretenders, led by 20-year-old world number one Carlos Alcaraz.

    And Djokovic was keen to slap the favourite’s tag firmly on his young rival’s forehead despite the vast difference in their grand slam experience.

    Alcaraz certainly has the better recent form, with Djokovic having struggled on clay so far amid concerns over an elbow problem, but he declared himself fully fit, and it is no secret that the slams are the titles he really cares about at this stage of his career.

    “Every grand slam at this stage of my career is like a present for me, so I’ll try to use the opportunity as best as possible,” he said.

    “Leading into Roland Garros, I haven’t had too much success in clay court events but a grand slam is like a different sport. I feel always extra motivated and confident in grand slams.

    “It’s no secret that one of the main reasons I play today and compete in professional tennis is to try to break more records and make more history in tennis. That’s extremely motivating and inspiring for me.

    “But things are different than they were 10 years ago in terms of how my body is maybe responding to the schedule. I’m feeling good at the moment. I don’t have any physical issues that worry me. So that’s most important for me.

    “I think the tournament is quite open. Maybe a few guys that are at the top of the favourites’ list, but anyone can take it. I’m hoping it can be me.”

  • Jack Draper hopes physical problems are behind him ahead of French Open debut Jack Draper hopes physical problems are behind him ahead of French Open debut

    Jack Draper hopes his physical problems are behind him as he prepares to make his French Open debut.

    There is much excitement within British tennis and the wider game about the 21-year-old’s potential but so far in his professional career he has been off court as much as on it.

    This year has been particularly frustrating, with illness disrupting his pre-season and then a niggling hip problem bothering him before an abdominal injury struck in Indian Wells in March after he had beaten British rivals Dan Evans and Andy Murray.

     

    View this post on Instagram

    A post shared by Jack Draper (@jackdraper)

     

    He returned in Monte Carlo in April but aggravated it and was not able to compete again until this week in Lyon.

    The good news is Draper, who is currently ranked 60, found his groove straight away, beating Alexandre Muller and Miomir Kecmanovic before losing in three sets to in-form Francisco Cerundolo.

    Draper is particularly pleased to have found what he believes is a solution to the nagging hip problem, with an injection relieving the pain he was experiencing.

    “I basically had a lot of scar tissue in my hip that wasn’t going away,” he said. “And we couldn’t figure out what it was but we went and really looked at it and I’m on the right path with that now. So that has allowed me to get back on court and feel really good.

    “I’ve not had many opportunities to play loads of slams, to play the four sets, five sets and all that sort of thing. I’m still waiting to find that confidence in my body. I’ve got a lot of confidence in my tennis but I feel like I need more time.

    “I haven’t played at all for so many weeks and stuff. I don’t know what’s going to happen this week. I have no idea. But all I know is that I’ve done all the right things the last six weeks.

    “The main thing now is, whatever happens after this week, to make sure that I’m consistently playing through to Wimbledon, after Wimbledon to the end of the year, because that’s when coming to these tournaments starts to become very normal and very comfortable.”

    Draper hired Croatian fitness coach Dejan Vojnovic late last year to try to build up his robustness, and the former sprinter has had his charge doing a lot of running.

    “It’s just lots of interval training most days,” said Draper. “He thinks that I’m in a great place with my body. It’s just sorting out all these niggles that I’ve had.

    “We’ve put in a lot of work so far but it’s only been three months, four months. The more consistent that is over months, years, that’s when I become more complete.”

    Having drawn Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic in grand slams previously, Draper would have been happy to avoid a seed this time, although Argentinian Tomas Etcheverry is enjoying a good season and will certainly not be a pushover.

    Draper is one of only three British players in the singles main draws in what has traditionally been the country’s least successful slam, but he has no hesitations about playing on clay.

    “I don’t know a lot about him,” he said of Etcheverry. “Obviously he is Argentinian and obviously he has grown up on the clay. I feel pretty good, though.

    “I played some good matches last week. In Monte Carlo as well, I played an Argentinian who was really good, so, actually, for someone who never really played on a clay court and being British, I feel pretty good on clay weirdly. So I don’t know about his game really. But I know that I’m confident.”

    Two British players celebrated doubles titles on the ATP Tour on Saturday, with Joe Salisbury and American Rajeev Ram, who have struggled so far this season, lifting the trophy in Lyon and Jamie Murray and New Zealander Michael Venus claiming their third success of the season in Geneva.

  • Coco Gauff hoping a return to Paris brings out her best tennis Coco Gauff hoping a return to Paris brings out her best tennis

    Coco Gauff hopes returning to Paris can help her find a new groove.

    The 19-year-old reached her first grand slam singles final at the French Open last summer, losing a one-sided contest to Iga Swiatek.

    She began this season by winning a WTA title in Auckland but has struggled recently, failing to make it past the third round at any of her last four tournaments and suffering some heavy defeats.

     

    View this post on Instagram

    A post shared by Coco Gauff (@cocogauff)

     

    Having established herself as a top-10 player, Gauff is now seeking the right path to move forward on and off the court.

    “I would have liked to approach it (the tournament) the same way but I feel that’s not realistic because I am a different person than I was last year,” she said.

    “I think I just have to find the way I want to approach it for this version of myself now. That comes through trial and error.

    “I feel like for some reason, though, I always seem to find that in Paris. I don’t know if it’s the city or the vibe here that makes me a lot more at ease.

    “I think there’s always things I would like to keep from myself a year ago and things I would like to get rid of. I have to figure out what things I want to keep and what things I don’t want to keep. I think that’s just learning about yourself.

    “No matter how young or how old I am, I think I’m always going to be in this process of learning about myself. But I feel like even more in these years as I’m transitioning into being like a real adult.”

    Gauff is back working with Serena Williams’ former coach Patrick Mouratoglou having split from Diego Moyano and is trying to take more ownership of her tennis.

    The American is a superb athlete and has one of the sport’s best backhands but her forehand is not nearly as reliable and is often cited as the weakness holding her back.

    “I’m used to being told what to do and I just do it,” said Gauff. “So I guess now I’m trying to find, and I think Patrick and previous coaches want me to be more vocal about my game and about what I want to do.

    “Obviously the forehand is something that I have to improve on, but on clay especially I feel like it’s one of my weapons. Last year, I won a lot of points using that heavy forehand, and I think that that’s something I continue to do this year.

    “I feel pretty confident going into this tournament regardless of how other people view my game.”

    Gauff will begin her tournament on Monday or Tuesday against Spain’s Rebeka Masarova.

    Second seed Aryna Sabalenka opens play on Philippe Chatrier on Sunday against Ukraine’s Marta Kostyuk while third seed Jessica Pegula meets fellow American Danielle Collins.

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.