Rafael Nadal believes it would be "better for everybody" if Novak Djokovic was competing at the Australian Open, while declaring the situation a "mess".

Nadal sits level on 20 grand slam titles with Djokovic and Roger Federer but is the only one of tennis' 'Big Three' featuring in Melbourne.

Federer was ruled out due to ongoing knee injury problems, while Djokovic saw his visa cancelled for a second time on Sunday as he appealed Australia's refusal to let him into the country.

That ruling owed to Djokovic's unvaccinated status and Australia's coronavirus guidelines, leaving the Serbian unable to defend his Melbourne Park crown and seek a record-extending 21st grand slam.

Nadal has previously said he was "tired" of talking about the Djokovic saga, but the Spaniard again offered his thoughts after defeating Marcos Giron in the first round on Monday.

"Almost one week ago when he won in the first instance, the case, he was able to get back his visa and practising. I said the justice has spoken," Nadal told reporters.

"If the justice says his visa is valid and he's able to play here, the justice has spoken, so that's the fairest thing, that he deserves to play here. Yesterday the justice said another thing. I will never be against what the justice says.

"Another thing is what I believe personally and what I believe is the ideal situation personally, no?

"The ideal situation in the world of sport is that the best players are on court and playing the most important events. That's better for the sport without a doubt.

"If Novak Djokovic is playing here, it's better for everybody, no doubt about that. Another thing is what happened. As I said in the beginning, I can't say another thing because I believe that the situation is very clear now."

 

Pressed for an answer on his relationship with the 34-year-old world number one, Nadal wished his fellow competitor all the best.

"He's not the only one that did bad things in that case," Nadal added.

"Of course, there are more responsibilities on all for this terrible situation that we faced for the last two weeks. But of course, he is one of those responsible, too.

"So on a personal level, yes, I would like to see him playing here. If it is fair or not that he's playing here is another discussion that I don't want to talk anymore about that."

Nadal advanced to the second round in Melbourne with a cruising 6-1 6-4 6-2 victory over American Giron, who is ranked 66th in the world.

That was Nadal's fourth win of the year after triumphing at the Melbourne Summer Set and he appears to have battled through his foot injury, though he still expressed concerns over his fitness.

"It's been a very challenging few months… tough moments with a lot of doubts – there still are doubts," he said.

"But I am here and I can't be happier to be back in Australia in this amazing stadium.

"You never know when you come back from injury, which unfortunately I have a lot of experience with, how things will be, so you have to take it day by day. You have to forgive yourself if things aren't going the proper way."

Awaiting Nadal in the second round of the tournament will be either Australia's Thanasi Kokkinakis or Yannick Hanfmann of Germany.

Novak Djokovic could make an earlier-than-expected return to Australia despite the Serb facing a three-year ban from the country, according to prime minister Scott Morrison.

The world's number-one ranked player, who is level on 20 grand slam titles with Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, saw his visa cancelled for a second time on public health grounds on Sunday.

Djokovic was attempting to overturn the original decision to refuse his entry into Australia, which was due to his unvaccinated status and the country's coronavirus rules.

That leaves the 34-year-old unable to defend his Australian Open title at Melbourne Park, while he was also handed an automatic three-year ban from the country under immigration law, unless Australia's immigration minister overrules the judgement.

Compelling or compassionate reasons would be needed to do so, but Morrison refused to rule out the possibility of Djokovic making an early return.

"I'm not going to precondition any of that or say anything that would not enable the minister to make the various calls he has to make," Morrison said to 2GB Radio on Monday.

"It does go over a three-year period, but there is the opportunity for [a person] to return in the right circumstances, and that will be considered at the time."

 

Morrison then insisted that Djokovic, who has already expressed his disappointment with the ruling, and any other entrant to Australia must comply with their rules.

"If you're someone coming from overseas, and there are conditions for you to enter this country, then you have to comply with them," he continued.

"This is about someone who sought to come to Australia and not comply with the entry rules at our border."

The Australian Open started on Monday, with Nadal advancing past Marcos Giron in his first-round match.

Naomi Osaka insisted she was unaffected by the saga surrounding Novak Djokovic ahead of the Australian Open.

Osaka opened her title defence at Melbourne Park with a 6-3 6-3 win over Colombian Camila Osorio on Monday.

The lead up to the year's first grand slam was overshadowed by the visa saga around Djokovic, who was deported from Australia on Sunday.

But Osaka, a four-time major winner, said the Serbian world number one's situation had no impact on her.

"I mean, to be completely honest, it didn't really affect me. I saw that it affected the men's draw a little bit so you might have to ask a men's player," she said.

"For me, my goal even before this whole situation is to just focus on myself more, what I need to do to become better.

"I wasn't really, I guess, looking at the news too often."

Osaka was unwilling to be drawn on whether Djokovic, whose visa was cancelled by immigration minister Alex Hawke, should be competing in the tournament.

A two-time champion in Melbourne, Osaka said her focus was on herself – with a second-round clash against Madison Brengle awaiting her.

"I feel like people focus on whatever they want to focus on. It's more like an individual question," Osaka said.

"Me, I'm a tennis player. I'll focus on my matches. You, as I guess an audience, focus on whatever is in the news, no?"

Rafael Nadal made a strong start to his Australian Open campaign, brushing past Marcos Giron in the opening round on Monday.

The Spanish superstar outclassed American Giron in a resounding 6-1 6-4 6-2 victory on Rod Laver Arena.

Nadal, who can claim the outright lead for most grand slams won by a man if he clinches his 21st in Melbourne, was in good form.

Playing his first major since last year's French Open, Nadal – the only former champion in the draw following Novak Djokovic's deportation from the country – was never troubled by Giron.

Nadal reeled off five consecutive games to take the opening set in 24 minutes.

His excellent first set was highlighted by two brilliant winners to break for 5-1 as he completely dominated Giron.

Nadal capitalised on his momentum by breaking in the opening game of the second set, Giron finally stopping the run by holding for 1-2.

The Spaniard maintained his lead and was forced to serve out the set, doing so to 15 to take complete control.

A backhand pass saw Nadal break again in the opening game of the third set on his way to a comprehensive win, with Thanasi Kokkinakis or Yannick Hanfmann awaiting him in the second round.

 

DATA SLAM: Nadal makes no mistake in opener

Only twice in his illustrious career has Nadal lost in the opening round of a grand slam – at Wimbledon in 2013 and the 2016 Australian Open.

But since his defeat to Fernando Verdasco in Melbourne six years ago, Nadal has not lost a set in the Australian Open first round, continuing that record against Giron.

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS
Nadal – 34/26
Giron – 10/23

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS
Nadal – 7/2
Giron – 2/2

BREAK POINTS WON
Nadal – 5/9
Giron – 0/2

Naomi Osaka moved into the Australian Open second round with a straight-sets victory over Camila Osorio on Monday.

The defending champion was largely untroubled by 20-year-old Colombian Osorio, easing to a 6-3 6-3 victory in 68 minutes on Rod Laver Arena.

Osaka, a four-time grand slam winner, has now won 23 of her past 24 matches in Melbourne.

It means a fourth-round showdown between Osaka and world number one Ash Barty remains on the cards.

Osaka made an imperious start and raced into a 5-0 lead after 16 minutes, on the back of eight winners, plus seven unforced errors from Osorio.

Incredibly, Osorio – who was growing in belief – had chances to get back on serve when Osaka was trying to close out the set, but the two-time champion in Melbourne managed to seal it 6-3.

The energetic Osorio was encouraging herself throughout while matching Osaka, who broke for a 2-1 lead in the second set.

In the end, Osaka proved too good despite a decent first-round test, moving into a meeting with either Dayana Yastremska or Madison Brengle.

 

DATA SLAM: Osaka's first-round record remains strong

Osaka is rarely troubled in the opening round of grand slams. The star is now 19-2 in the first round at majors.

Another challenge awaits. Osaka has never defended any of her major crowns and the last player to defend the women's title at Melbourne Park was Victoria Azarenka (2012 and 2013).

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS
Osaka – 19/28
Osorio – 5/15

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS
Osaka – 4/3
Osorio – 1/4

BREAK POINTS WON
Osaka – 4/6
Osorio – 1/5

Novak Djokovic's absence from the Australian Open "is a loss for the game", says men's tennis governing body the ATP.

The world number one failed in his bid to overturn a decision from the government to cancel his visa on public health grounds at the Federal Court in Melbourne on Sunday.

Djokovic, who is unvaccinated against COVID-19, will therefore be unable to participate in the Australian Open, where he was seeking a record-extending 10th title.

As the 20-time grand slam winner prepared to fly out of Australia on Sunday, the ATP released a statement reflecting on a "deeply regrettable" saga that lasted 10 days.

"Today's decision to uphold Novak Djokovic's Australian visa cancellation marks the end of a deeply regrettable series of events," the statement read. 

"Ultimately, decisions of legal authorities regarding matters of public health must be respected. 

"More time is required to take stock of the facts and to take the learnings from this situation.

"Irrespective of how this point has been reached, Novak is one of our sport's greatest champions and his absence from the Australian Open is a loss for the game. 

"We know how turbulent the recent days have been for Novak and how much he wanted to defend his title in Melbourne. 

"We wish him well and look forward to seeing him back on court soon. ATP continues to strongly recommend vaccination to all players."

 

Sunday's verdict brings an end to a long-running saga that began when Djokovic was held at an airport in Melbourne when he arrived in the country on January 6.

The 34-year-old won an appeal to overturn the first bid to deport him from the country, but immigration minister Alex Hawke used his powers to again cancel the visa.

That decision was taken amid much backlash in the country, which has strict coronavirus restrictions, and Australian prime minister Scott Morrison backed Sunday's verdict.

"This cancellation decision was made on health, safety and good order grounds, on the basis that it was in the public interest to do so," he said.

"I welcome the decision to keep our borders strong and keep Australians safe.

"I thank the court for their prompt attention to these issues and the patience of all involved as we have worked to resolve this issue. 

"It's now time to get on with the Australian Open and get back to enjoying tennis over the summer."

But the unanimous verdict did not go down well with everyone, with Serbian prime minister Aleksandar Vucic launching an attack on Australia for their handling of the matter.

"I talked to Novak and told him I can't wait for him to come to Serbia and return to his country, and to be where he is always welcome," Vucic is quoted as saying by Novosti.

"They think that they humiliated Djokovic, but they humiliated themselves, and he can return to his country and look everyone in the eye with his head held high."

Speaking prior to Sunday's verdict, Rafael Nadal insisted the Australian Open will be a great tournament "with or without" Djokovic.

Other big names have yet to comment on the deportation order, but women's player Alize Cornet feels Djokovic's peers could have offered more support to the Serbian.

"I know too little to judge the situation. What I know is that Novak is always the first one to stand for the players," she posted on Twitter. 

"But none of us stood for him. Be strong, Novak."

Djokovic had been due to face Miomir Kecmanovic in the opening round on Monday but will now be replaced by lucky loser Salvatore Caruso.

The ATP has confirmed that there will be no shuffling of the seeds due to Monday's schedule of playing having been released prior to the court's decision.

Novak Djokovic is "extremely disappointed" to have lost his fight to compete at the Australian Open but "respects" the decision and will not mount fresh legal action.

The world number one learned on Sunday that his second appeal to reinstate his visa had been rejected unanimously by three judges at the Federal Court in Melbourne.

Djokovic, who is not vaccinated against COVID-19, had been due to begin his latest title defence against Miomir Kecmanovic on Monday but will instead now be deported from the country.

While disappointed at the decision, the 20-time grand slam winner will cooperate with the authorities in relation to his departure from the country.

In a statement released shortly after the verdict, Djokovic said: "I will now be taking some time to rest and to recuperate, before making any further comments beyond this.

"I am extremely disappointed with the Court ruling to dismiss my application for judicial review of the Minister's decision to cancel my visa, which means I cannot stay in Australia and participate in the Australian Open.

"I respect the Court's ruling and I will cooperate with the relevant authorities in relation to my departure from the country."

 

Sunday's verdict looks set to bring an end to a long-running saga that began when Djokovic was held at an airport in Melbourne when he arrived in the country on January 6.

The 34-year-old won an appeal to overturn the first bid to deport him from the country, but immigration minister Alex Hawke used his powers to again cancel the visa on Friday.

That decision was taken amid much backlash in Australia, which has strict coronavirus restrictions, while some leading players have lamented how the tournament has been overshadowed by the Djokovic drama.

But after losing his latest appeal, the Serbian hopes that all focus can now be on the first grand slam of the year, which begins on Monday.

"I am uncomfortable that the focus of the past weeks has been on me and I hope that we can all now focus on the game and tournament I love," he added in his statement. 

"I would like to wish the players, tournament officials, staff, volunteers and fans all the best for the tournament.

"Finally, I would like to thank my family, friends, team, supporters, fans and my fellow Serbians for your continued support. You have all been a great source of strength to me."

Full reasons for the court's ruling will be published "in the coming days".

Djokovic could now be banned from the country for the next three years as that is the punishment that usually comes with a deportation order.

The tennis season has begun with Rafael Nadal, Ash Barty, Paula Badosa and Thanasi Kokkinakis among the champions at small-scale events in Australia.

Yet there has been one dominant story in the sport and little else has had a look-in in the lead-up to the Australian Open.

Now that Novak Djokovic knows his fate, there is the welcome prospect of eyes turning to matters on the tennis court, rather than the Federal Court.

With the action getting under way in Melbourne on Monday, Stats Perform looks at the main protagonists and what the numbers tell us about another high-stakes grand slam.

Djokovic absence blows open men's draw

As defending champion Djokovic heads for home, it is worth a reminder of how he has dominated this tournament.

Nine of his grand slam titles have come in Melbourne, and he has taken the trophy in each of the last three years, helping him cosy up alongside Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal on 20 majors, an all-time record they share. Of the 'Big Three', only Nadal is in the draw this year, with Federer currently on the injured list.

Djokovic has the highest win percentage in the Open Era (since 1969) at the Australian Open, among players with 20 or more wins (91.1 per cent – W82 L8). He was hoping to join Nadal (13 French Opens) and Margaret Court (11 Australian Opens) in the exclusive club of players to reach double figures for singles titles at one slam.

The Serb was also aspiring to become the first man in the Open Era to win four consecutive Australian Opens. It happened once before the tour turned professional, with Roy Emerson winning five in a row from 1963 to 1967. Djokovic has left Melbourne with the title every time that he has made it through to the semi-finals.

 

So who takes the title now?

Only Bjorn Borg (89.2 per cent) has a higher winning percentage in grand slam matches than Nadal (87.7 per cent) and Djokovic (87.5 per cent) in the Open Era, among players with 100 or more wins. So why not Nadal?

The 35-year-old and Djokovic have carved up 12 of the last 14 grand slam titles, Nadal winning four of those (three French Opens, one US Open). He is battling back from a foot injury lay-off and coronavirus, and might need to get the early rounds out of the way without undue stress to stand a chance at the business end.

The two exceptions in the Nadal-Djokovic sequence of slam dominance have come at the US Open, with Dominic Thiem winning in New York in 2020 and Daniil Medvedev triumphing at Djokovic's expense in last year's Flushing Meadows final. Thiem is not in Australia, but world number two Medvedev is, looking to become the third Russian man to win two slams, after Yevgeny Kafelnikov and Marat Safin.

The last man other than Federer, Nadal and Djokovic to secure back-to-back slam singles title was Andre Agassi (US Open 1999 and Australian Open 2000), but that is Medvedev's objective now, and he has the game to pull it off.

Nadal has reached at least the quarter-final stage in 15 of his last 16 grand slam appearances, winning six of those majors (four French Opens and two US Opens), so he may well be a factor.

Who else is in the frame? Alexander Zverev probably, having reached the quarter-finals in Australia in the last two seasons (SF in 2020 and QF in 2021). He won the Olympic Games and ATP Finals titles last year, so a grand slam is an obvious next step. He might want to keep double faults in check though, having served a tour-high 113 in slams last season.

Stefanos Tsitsipas reached the Australian semi-finals in 2019 and 2021, so throw him into the mix too, and Matteo Berrettini might be a threat. The Italian, a runner-up to Djokovic at Wimbledon in July, served more aces than any other player in grand slams last year (311 aces, 16.4 on average per match).

 

Others have more modest ambitions

Andy Murray is back at the Australian Open for the first time since 2019, when he lost in the first round against Roberto Bautista Agut in five sets and was more or less given his last rites as a tennis pro after the match, having indicated he was close to retirement.

The five-time Australian Open runner-up last won a match in this tournament in 2017, when he reached round four. A tough opener against Nikoloz Basilashvili awaits.

Spanish 40-year-old Feliciano Lopez will make his 80th appearance in a grand slam and become the second man in the Open Era with 80 or more appearances at the four majors, after Federer (81).

Do not expect an Australian to be men's champion, by the way. The last time an Australian reached the men's singles final was 2005, when Lleyton Hewitt lost against Safin, and the last home champion was Mark Edmondson in 1976.

Barty backed in stacked women's draw

For the first time since 1997, neither Serena nor Venus Williams will take part in the Australian Open. Yet the women's tour is in rude health, even without those great bastions.

Ash Barty is world number one and a standout pick for many, only enhancing her claims after winning an Adelaide International title in the run-up to this fortnight.

But there is staggering depth on the women's side at present, and Barty will face stiff competition.

Incredibly, the last five grand slam finals have featured 10 different women, and teenager Emma Raducanu's against-all-odds US Open triumph in September shows best of all that new stars are emerging.

Yet since 2000, only three non-seeded players have reached the women's singles final at the Australian Open: Serena Williams in 2007, Justine Henin in 2010 and Garbine Muguruza in 2020. 

Barty could become the first Australian to be women's champion since Chris O'Neil in 1978, and the first to reach the final since Wendy Turnbull lost to Hana Mandlikova in 1980.

The Queenslander is the top seed, and the last time the number one failed to reach at least the fourth round at Melbourne Park was in 1979, when Virginia Ruzici lost her opening match. Barty ended a long wait for an Australian winner of the women's title at Wimbledon last year, so why not closer to home as well?

 

Naomi Osaka is back, so what should we expect?

Truth be told, that's hard to know. Osaka took time out from tennis after the US Open to focus on her mental health and enjoyed hanging out with friends, before deciding she missed tennis enough to go back on tour.

She had three wins at the Melbourne Summer Set tournament recently before withdrawing from a fourth match, saying her body had "got a shock" from the intensity. As defending champion in the season's first major, she has a target on her back and will need to find a way to handle that.

Over the past six seasons, only Osaka has managed to win back-to-back grand slam singles titles among the women, and she has done so twice (US Open 2018 and Australian Open 2019, plus US Open 2020 and Australian Open 2021).

The last player to win back-to-back women's Australian Open singles titles was Victoria Azarenka (2012 and 2013), so it does not happen regularly.

Osaka has an 85 per cent win rate at this tournament: since 2000, only Jennifer Capriati (90 per cent) and Serena Williams (89 per cent) have had a higher win percentage in the main draw.

 

You want challengers to the big two? Try sticking a pin in the draw

The Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup, which goes to the champion, is a trophy that upwards of a dozen women will seriously believe they can win.

Aryna Sabalenka has reached the semi-finals of the last two slams but is mired in some kind of hellish serving groove, having made 74 double faults in her last four matches and lost the last three in a row.

Anett Kontaveit won a tour-high 39 matches on hard courts last year but has only been to one grand slam quarter-final – last year in Australia, losing to Simona Halep.

What about Ons Jabeur, who matched Kontaveit for a tour-high 48 wins across all surfaces last year? The Tunisian is queen of the drop shot, making 147 successful such plays on tour last year, more than any other player, and recently reached the top 10 in the WTA rankings for the first time.

Maria Sakkari reached two slam semi-finals last year, the first of her career, and the form of Barbora Krejcikova and Badosa in the past week in Melbourne marks them out as contenders. Both are recent fast-risers, Krejcikova already with a French Open title to show.

WTA Finals champion Muguruza could be the second Spaniard to twice reach the Melbourne title match, after Arantxa Sanchez Vicario (1994 v Steffi Graf and 1995 v Mary Pierce). Spain has never had an Australian Open women's singles winner: former French Open and Wimbledon champ Muguruza is an authentic contender.

Halep was runner-up to Caroline Wozniacki in 2018, a semi-finalist in 2020 and quarter-finalist last year, and a Melbourne Summer Set title was a handy warm-up for the Romanian. Consider her, too.

Monica Seles, in 1991, was the last player to triumph on her debut in the main draw, but she was already a grand slam winner (1990 French Open). Given the strength of the line-up, the prospect of a bolter coming through this field is unlikely, even if the example of Raducanu tells us anything is possible.

Novak Djokovic's participation in the 2022 Australian Open hangs in the balance with the judges at Sunday's court hearing considering their decision with no exact timeframe on a final call.

Djokovic, who returned to detention on Saturday as per a pre-agreed court arrangement, is fighting to be able to compete at the Australian Open, which starts on Monday.

A Federal Court of Australia procedural hearing was held on Sunday, where lawyers representing Djokovic and Australian Immigration Minister Alex Hawke presented their cases after the Serbian's visa was cancelled on Friday.

After several hours with both sides arguing their case, chief Justice James Allsop adjourned and said the court may reconvene "this afternoon or perhaps tomorrow morning".

The Australian Open announced Monday's schedule on Sunday afternoon, with Djokovic's first-round match against Miomir Kecmanovic listed as the second in the night session (from 7pm AEDT) on centre court.

At the Sunday hearing, the Immigration Minister's submissions on why Djokovic's visa was cancelled were detailed, pointing to the argument that his presence in Australia may foster sentiment against coronavirus vaccinations.

Djokovic's lawyers argued against the submission, slamming the Minister as "plainly wrong" for assumptions that he was perceived as an anti-vax figurehead and claiming they misrepresented his views on vaccines based on media reports.

Instead, they argued deporting Djokovic could stir up more anti-vaccination sentiment than letting him stay and insisted the Minister did not have enough evidence to make the counter judgement.

The Minister's lawyers reiterated the view that Djokovic's presence would inflame anti-vaccination sentiment and argued that Hawke had considered the outcomes from both decisions.

Mr Stephen Lloyd, representing the Minister, said: "The minister took the view that his presence in Australia could encourage people to emulate [disregard for the rules]."

Mr Lloyd pointed to recent images of Djokovic posing for photos in Serbia after testing positive to COVID-19 last month, when he added: "The applicant has some recent history of ignoring COVID safety measures. Even when he was infected he undertook an interview and a photoshoot including taking his mask off."

The end of the Novak Djokovic saga is set to be settled on Sunday after a procedural hearing began.

Djokovic, who returned to detention on Saturday as per a pre-agreed court arrangement, is fighting to be able to compete at the Australian Open, which starts on Monday.

A procedural hearing, where the matter was formally transferred from the Federal Circuit Court to the Federal Court of Australia, started at 09:30 local time (22:30 GMT).

Djokovic's lawyers secured an early procedural victory when it was decided the case should be heard by a full court, consisting of Chief Justice James Allsop, Justice Anthony Besanko and Justice David O'Callaghan.

That reduces the avenues for any possible appeal against the court's decision. Stephen Lloyd, who was appearing on behalf of immigration minister Alex Hawke, had indicated his preference for a single judge.

A central tenet of the case is set to be Hawke's assertion that Djokovic should be removed from the country "on health and good order grounds" and "in the public interest".

 

In submissions to the court issued by Djokovic's lawyers, Hawke is shown to say that he accepted the world number one recently tested positive for COVID-19.

However, Hawke adds that: "I am concerned that his presence in Australia, given his well-known stance on vaccination, creates a risk of strengthening the anti-vaccination sentiment of a minority of the Australian community."

The nine-time Australian Open champion's visa was revoked for a second time on Friday despite Djokovic winning his initial case last Monday.

His lawyers began their argument shortly after the hearing started, with Chief Justice Allsop having suggested that due to quality of the written submissions, both side's arguments would be heard by lunchtime local time.

The end of the Novak Djokovic saga is set to be settled on Sunday after a procedural hearing began in Melbourne.

Djokovic, who returned to detention on Saturday as per a pre-agreed court arrangement, is fighting to be able to compete at the Australian Open, which starts on Monday.

A procedural hearing, where the matter was formally transferred from the Federal Circuit Court to the Federal Court of Australia, started at 09:30 local time (22:30 GMT).

Djokovic's lawyers secured an early procedural victory when it was decided the case should be heard by a full court, consisting of Chief Justice James Allsop, Justice Anthony Besanko and Justice David O'Callaghan.

That reduces the avenues for any possible appeal against the court's decision. Stephen Lloyd, who was appearing on behalf of immigration minister Alex Hawke, had indicated his preference for a single judge.

A central tenet of the case is set to be Hawke's assertion that Djokovic should be removed from the country "on health and good order grounds" and "in the public interest".

 

In submissions to the court issued by Djokovic's lawyers, Hawke is shown to say that he accepted the world number one recently tested positive for COVID-19.

However, Hawke adds that: "I am concerned that his presence in Australia, given his well-known stance on vaccination, creates a risk of strengthening the anti-vaccination sentiment of a minority of the Australian community."

The nine-time Australian Open champion's visa was revoked for a second time on Friday despite Djokovic winning his initial case last Monday.

His lawyers began their argument shortly after the hearing started, with Chief Justice Allsop having suggested that due to quality of the written submissions, both side's arguments would be heard by lunchtime local time.

Novak Djokovic was back in detention on Saturday night as he awaited decision day in his battle to play at the Australian Open.

The end of the saga should come on Sunday when Djokovic's lawyers attempt to prevent the Serbian being deported.

A procedural hearing, where the matter was formally transferred from the Federal Circuit Court to the Federal Court of Australia, saw an 09:30 AEDT (Saturday 22:30 GMT) start to the case agreed upon.

Djokovic's lawyers secured an early procedural victory when it was decided the case should be heard by a full court, consisting of Chief Justice James Allsop, Justice Anthony Besanko and Justice David O’Callaghan.

That reduces the avenues for any possible appeal against the court's decision. Stephen Lloyd, who was appearing on behalf of immigration minister Alex Hawke, had indicated his preference for a single judge.

A central tenet of the case is set to be Hawke's assertion that Djokovic should be removed from the country "on health and good order grounds" and "in the public interest".

In submissions to the court issued by Djokovic's lawyers, Hawke is shown to say that he accepted the world number one recently tested positive for COVID-19.

However, Hawke adds that: "I am concerned that his presence in Australia, given his well-known stance on vaccination, creates a risk of strengthening the anti-vaccination sentiment of a minority of the Australian community."

The nine-time Australian Open champion's visa was revoked for a second time on Friday despite Djokovic winning his initial case on Monday.

His lawyers will dispute the minister's claims and push for Djokovic to be freed from detention to be able to defend his title at Melbourne Park.

In their application to the court, Djokovic's legal team state: "There was no evidence before the respondent that Mr Djokovic had made any comments about his vaccination status or expressed any 'views' regarding vaccination at any time during which he has been in Australia (on this occasion or previous occasions) or at any other time in any other location (post April 2020)."

For Djokovic, lawyer Nick Wood said on Friday that his client was of "negligible risk", "of good standing" and had a medical contraindication to a vaccine.

The Australian Open starts on Monday, when Djokovic hopes to begin his journey to what could be a 10th Melbourne slam and a record-breaking 21st major title.

Djokovic is scheduled to face countryman Miomir Kecmanovic in the first round.

Novak Djokovic has won the last three Australian Open titles and lifted the trophy nine times in all, which means he arrived in Melbourne as a hot favourite to triumph again.

Yet even before the chaos of the last 10 days, this looked a tough Australian Open for Djokovic, given the likes of Daniil Medvedev and Alexander Zverev have recently taken his scalp in major hard-court matches.

There was no doubt he was a worthy favourite, but Djokovic's dominance of the first half of last season was followed by a series of painful defeats, weakening his standing at the top of the game.

When the men's singles draw was made on Thursday, only two former champions featured: Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, the 2009 winner.

Here, Stats Perform assesses the contenders to follow Djokovic onto the Melbourne Park throne.

NEXT NUMBER ONE? DANIIL MEDVEDEV

Last year's runner-up, given a sound pasting by Djokovic in a final that came nowhere close to matching expectations, has come a long way since that crushing blow. Russian Medvedev was the only man to beat Djokovic in a grand slam last year, doing so at the final hurdle of the final major, without dropping a set in the US Open title match. That denied Djokovic a calendar year sweep of the majors, which would have been the first time the feat had been achieved by a man since Rod Laver's 1969 complete set.

He also took the first set off Djokovic in the Paris Masters final in November, only to lose the match. What is clear is that Medvedev is amassing experiences against Djokovic: some good and some bad, but all surely massively helpful. He lost in their first three encounters but has won four of the seven since.

Progress like this is what repeat champions are made of. Medvedev has a 9-9 win-loss record when dropping the first set of matches over the past year, which shows he is not easily beaten. Only Djokovic (14-6) has a better record in that respect.

Medvedev has a 54-9 record on hardcourts over the past 12 months, has gone mightily close to hitting number one in the rankings, and might see a lot of that top step in the months and years to come. On the 52-week rolling list, he holds a 16-8 win-loss record against top-10 opponents, which is second only to Djokovic (22-5).

Should Medvedev pull off a second consecutive grand slam win, it would make him just the third Russian man to win two or more grand slam singles titles, after Yevgeny Kafelnikov (French Open 1996 and Australian Open 1999) and Marat Safin (US Open 2000 and Australian Open 2005).

The last player other than Federer, Nadal and Djokovic to secure back-to-back majors was Andre Agassi (US Open 1999 and Australian Open 2000).

 

OVERDUE SLAM INCOMING? ALEXANDER ZVEREV

The Olympic champion and ATP Finals winner is just lacking a grand slam title to confirm to the wider sporting world his status as one of the rising generation's preeminent performers. Zverev beat Djokovic in semi-finals en route to both of those big 2021 titles, and although he also lost three times to the 20-time major winner over the season, he took four sets off the man from Belgrade in those defeats.

Zverev is improving season on season, and if he avoids injuries or other tribulations in 2022 then he surely stands a strong chance of picking up that first slam before the year is out. He won six titles in all in 2021, more than any other singles player on the ATP Tour, and holds a 43-10 win-loss record on hardcourts on the 52-week rolling list.

When the draw was made, he and Djokovic were set on another semi-final collision course, and that prospect looked tantalising. Until recently so far apart, the gap has closed considerably, Zverev tallying victories that will have surely troubled the world number one.

NOT READY TO BE YESTERDAY'S MAN: RAFAEL NADAL

Because why the heck not? Nadal, at the age of 35, returned from a long foot injury lay-off with a title at the Melbourne Summer Set tournament this month, and if his record at the Australian Open is deemed unspectacular by some, the Spaniard himself takes great pride in his achievements.

Recently, in a Melbourne news conference, he was asked why he had not reached the semi-finals of the Australian Open since his title year, and Nadal swiftly put his questioner right.

"I am very sorry to tell you – I don't want to – but I have been in the final of 2012, '14, '17, '19," he said. "I got injured a couple of times here in my tennis career, so of course it's been a great tournament for me, and of course I had a lot of challenges in terms of injuries in this event. Sorry to correct you."

Polite as ever, but pointed. Nadal knows he has been successful in Australia and would surely not have returned this year if he felt there was no chance of another run to the final. He rightly takes issue with those who forget his feats. Remember, he, like Djokovic and Federer, sits on 20 grand slams.

Nadal reached the quarter-finals last year and lost from two sets up against Stefanos Tsitsipas, so he will want to banish that memory. There is little evidence of hard-court form beyond his win in a mediocre field last week in Melbourne, but he is Rafael Nadal and he wins tennis tournaments. At least one every year since 2004. A 6-8 record against rival top-10 players over the past 52 weeks is no great shakes, but you count out Nadal at your peril.

 

NEXTGEN OR NEXT NEW CHAMP? JANNIK SINNER

Tennis is such a generation game just now. The Big Three (Big Four, if you include Andy Murray) are in the twilight years of their careers, coming under long-awaited threat from the mid-twenties likes of Medvedev, Zverev, Dominic Thiem (absent from Australia), Tsitsipas and Matteo Berrettini.

Sinner is to the forefront of the pack of the next big group coming through (see also: Carlos Alcaraz, Lorenzo Musetti). At 20, the Italian is entering a big year in the context of his career. By the time Djokovic turned 20, he was sixth in the world, Federer was 14th on the day he left his teenage years behind, and Nadal was second. Progress comes at different rates.

Sinner was 15th in the rankings on his last birthday, in August, but has since dipped his toes into the top 10 and currently stands 11th. He won four ATP Tour titles in 2021, finished the year with a 49-22 record, and can reasonably be expected to kick on. The Italian has yet to majorly show up at the grand slams, with a Roland Garros quarter-final in 2020 his best run yet.

Expect that to change soon enough. Sinner is only 6-9 against top-10 players on the 52-week list, but he warmed up for the challenge that lies ahead in Melbourne with three straight-sets singles victories at the ATP Cup. His 42-14 record on hardcourts over the last year suggests the Australian Open should suit him as well as any slam.

Twenty-time major winner Rafael Nadal says he is tired of the Novak Djokovic saga ahead of the Australian Open and insists the event will be "great" with or without him.

Sixth seed Nadal is preparing to take on American Miguel Giron in the Australian Open first round on Monday but preparations have been hijacked by Djokovic's ongoing visa status.

The world number one had his visa cancelled by the Australian Immigration Minister on Friday with an appeal to be held on Sunday.

The situation has dragged on for the past week, with Nadal admitting he was tired of the narrative and that no one player is bigger than the Australian Open.

"I tell you one thing, it's very clear that Novak Djokovic is one of the best players of the history, but there is no one player in history that's more important than an event," Nadal told reporters on Saturday.

"[The] Australian Open is much more important than any player. If he's playing finally, OK.

"If he's not playing, [the] Australian Open will be great, with or without him. That's my point of view."

World number six Nadal, who has only won the Australian Open title once in 2009, said he hoped focus would return to the upcoming tournament where he is aiming for a record-breaking 21st slam.

"Honestly, I'm little bit tired of the situation because I just believe that it's important to talk about our sport, about tennis," Nadal said.

The Spaniard added that he respected Djokovic and has a "good relationship" with him despite their differences.

"I wish him all the best. I really respect him, even if I [do] not agree with a lot of things that he did the last couple of weeks," he said.

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