Novak Djokovic says he will play at whatever tournament will have him as he gears up to make his return to the ATP Tour.

The men's world number one has not played a competitive match since early December and was last month deported from Australia on the eve of the Australian Open.

That decision was a result of Djokovic opting not to join the majority of his tennis peers in getting vaccinated against COVID-19 and amid controversy over how he handled getting the virus himself in December.

Speaking to the BBC in a recent interview, Djokovic stated he was prioritising his right to choose what to put into his body above his sporting ambitions and confirmed he is willing to miss further grand slams if necessary.

With COVID restrictions still in place in many countries, Djokovic acknowledges his options to play are limited.

"I just have to follow the rules. You know, whatever tournament that I'm able to play, I will be trying to get to that country and play the tournament," Djokovic said ahead of facing Lorenzo Musetti in round one of the Dubai Tennis Championships.

"Obviously, I'm not intending to play the full schedule and that wasn't also my intention, as you brought it up and my goal prior to this season or the season before, and I was trying to aim to play my best at the grand slams and some of the 1000 events we have, of course, and playing for my country, those were the biggest motivations that I had in terms of the scheduling. 

"Right now, the situation is obviously different for me. So, I really can't choose right now. It's really about where I can go and play. So, wherever I have an opportunity, I'll be using probably that opportunity and going to play because this is what I do, it's what I love to do still. 

"And I have support from my family and my team is still there with me and that's what's important for me because obviously it was not easy for anyone in my surroundings to go through these kinds of circumstances and situations that we have been through.

"But it's very exciting to have everyone together here with me. And in Dubai, we're back on the tour and then we'll play this tournament and we'll see how it goes further down the line."

Several stars backed the decision for Djokovic to be barred from playing in Melbourne, with most noting that he had not followed the rules in order to do so.

But the Serbian says he has been received warmly ahead of his return to the ATP Tour.

"I haven't seen too many players, but the players that I've seen have been positive and welcoming," he added.

"And it's nice to see obviously. I can't say that was the case in Australia. It was a little bit strange, but here it's well so far."

Novak Djokovic has said missing grand slams including the French Open and Wimbledon will be "the price I am willing to pay" for resisting the COVID-19 vaccine.

Last month, the world number one and 20-time grand slam winner was deported from Australia on the eve of the Australian Open after his entry visa to the country was cancelled.

That stemmed from Djokovic refusing to join the overwhelming majority of fellow tennis stars in being vaccinated against coronavirus, and amid controversy over how he handled getting the virus himself in December.

In a new interview with the BBC, Djokovic said he was prioritising his right to choose what to put into his body above his sporting ambitions.

The 34-year-old Serbian declared his stance is likely to keep him sidelined for "most of the tournaments" at present.

Djokovic is set to make his return to the court at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships later this month, with vaccination not a requirement. He has been included on the entry list for next month's Indian Wells Open, but that is a tournament he may have to sit out.

He confirmed in the BBC interview that he has still yet to be vaccinated, though did not entirely rule out the prospect in the future.

"I have not," he said. "I understand and support fully the freedom to choose whether you want to get vaccinated or not."

Prior to entering Australia, where he was obliged to confirm his status, it was only widely assumed that Djokovic had not been inoculated.

Now he is keen to "speak up ... and justify certain things", adding: "So I was never against vaccination. I understand that globally everyone is trying to put a big effort into handling this virus and seeing hopefully an end soon to this virus.

"And vaccinations are probably the biggest effort that was made on behalf of the planet. I fully respect that, but I've always represented and always supported the freedom to choose what you put into your body. For me that is essential. It's really the principle of understanding what is right and what is wrong for you.

"And me, as an elite professional athlete, I've always carefully reviewed and assessed everything that comes in, from the supplements, food, the water that I drink or sports drinks. Anything really that comes into my body as a fuel.

"Based on all the information that I got, I decided not to take the vaccine as of today. I keep my mind open because we are all trying to find collectively a best possible solution to end COVID. Nobody really wants to be in this kind of situation that we've been in collectively for two years."

Djokovic is the reigning French Open and Wimbledon champion and, after Rafael Nadal's Australian Open triumph, he has been bumped down to joint second on the all-time men's grand slam list. Missing majors at this stage of his career could be a crushing blow to Djokovic's hopes of finishing top of that pile.

"I'm part of a very global sport that is played every single week in a different location, so I understand the consequences of my decision, and one of the consequences of my decision was not going to Australia, and I was prepared not to go," Djokovic said.

"I understand that not being vaccinated today I am unable to travel to most of the tournaments at the moment. That is the price I am willing to pay."

He looked to disassociate himself from the anti-vax community by saying he had "never said I am part of that movement" and declaring that was a "wrong conclusion" to draw.

At the same time, Djokovic concurred when asked if he was willing to sacrifice the chance to be seen as the greatest player of all time, and to travel to Roland Garros and the All England Club this year.

"Because the principles of decision-making on my body are more important than any title or anything else. I'm trying to be in tune with my body as much as I possibly can," Djokovic said.

"I say that everyone has a right to choose to act or say whatever they feel is appropriate for them."

Novak Djokovic has been included on the entry list for next month's Indian Wells Open despite the tournament requiring all players are vaccinated against COVID-19.

Last month, the world number one and 20-time grand slam winner was deported from Australia on the eve of the Australian Open after his entry visa to the country was cancelled due to him not being vaccinated against coronavirus.

Djokovic believed he was still eligible to enter the country and compete after testing positive for coronavirus in December and making a full recovery.

The Serbian was subsequently sent home as he lost the legal battle that dominated much of the sports news agenda during the early weeks of 2022.

Djokovic is set to make his return to the court at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships later this month, with vaccination not a requirement.

But it is at Indian Wells, where the five-time champion has been announced as a competitor, prompting curiosity about whether more legal battles await or if Djokovic has since been jabbed.

An Indian Wells statement read: "With health and safety as the tournament's top priority, the BNP Paribas Open will require valid proof of full vaccination to enter the Indian Wells Tennis Garden for the tournament.

"For the second consecutive year, the BNP Paribas Open has partnered with CLEAR, the secure identity company, to facilitate the implementation of the venue's mandatory vaccination policy ahead of the 2022 tournament.

"The guidelines for the players are governed by the protocols established by their respective governing bodies, the WTA and ATP, as well as any restrictions established by the United States of America in regard to the vaccination status of international travellers entering the country."

Images of Djokovic do not appear any of the tournament's build-up social media posts nor the website's promotional announcement, while his entry-list inclusion is little more than a footnote – but, crucially, it does include him.

The statement continued: "A power-packed line-up of ATP top-10 players will join [Rafael] Nadal in looking to put together a breakthrough performance in Tennis paradise.

"2021 US Open champion and 2022 Australian Open finalist Daniil Medvedev (world no. 2), 2021 ATP Finals winner Alexander Zverev (world no. 3), and 2021 French Open finalist Stefanos Tsitsipas (world no. 4) will each be in search of their maiden title in the desert.

"Reigning BNP Paribas Open champion Cameron Norrie (world no. 13) will look to replicate his extraordinary 2021 title run, in which he won his first Masters 1000 crown.

"World no. 1 and five-time Indian Wells champion Novak Djokovic is also on the tournament entry list."

Rafael Nadal is motivated to win more grand slams than rivals Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic come the end of the trio's careers, but he believes he will need more than 21 to achieve that.

Spaniard Nadal sealed a record 21st grand slam title on Sunday at the Australian Open, beating Daniil Medvedev 2-6 6-7 (5-7) 6-4 6-4 7-5 in a marathon five hours and 24 minutes.

It was only the second Australian Open title of Nadal's decorated career and put him out ahead of Djokovic and Federer (both 20) as the man to have won the most grand slams of all time.

Nadal worried his career was over just a matter of weeks ago as he struggled to recover from the foot injury that has affected a large part of his career.

He abandoned a stop-start 2021 season in August and missed Wimbledon, the Olympics and the US Open, leaving many to wonder if Nadal would ever be a force at the top level again.

Now, the 35-year-old is the man to beat once more, although he suspects he will need to add more major titles to his name to ensure he is ahead of his two great rivals when their careers are over.

"A short time ago I would have accepted just being able to just play tennis and not to win any more grand slams, but now I have 21," he told a media conference. 

"My way of seeing it doesn't change. I want to be the one with more grand slams at the end of the careers of the three of us, because nowadays it is the three of us. Yes, I would like that, but I am not obsessed by it and it does not frustrate me that I might not be the one. 

"Honestly, I don't think that 21 will be enough to end up being who has more grand slams, but the future will tell what will happen. Again, I feel fortunate in this life.

"All three of us have won more than we could have dreamed when we were kids. I understand the debate of who is the best, and it feeds the fans, but I don't think about it like that. As always, I try to do it my way and not focus on others.

"I follow my way and if that allows me to have options to fight in order to have more moments like the ones I've just had, it will be welcome. I will fight for it and I hope to keep having chances if my physical condition allows me."

Nadal's focus now turns to the Indian Wells Masters, which starts on March 10, with it appearing unlikely he will play in Acapulco a fortnight earlier. 

"My first priority is to try to analyse how I am after the Australian Open," he added. "I need a few days and then I will analyse things with calm and clarity. 

"For Indian Wells, I would say I have the maximum determination to go if there isn't any setbacks. For Acapulco, I would like to be there but I have to make a smart choice. The perspective has changed and I do have to take decisions according to what my body allows me."

Roger Goodell's description of Tom Brady on Tuesday as merely "one of the greatest to ever play in the NFL" felt a little generous to the competition. 

In the period of claim and counter-claim between reports of his retirement on Saturday and confirmation on Tuesday, the verdict had been cast – not that it was ever in doubt. 

Among others, Patrick Mahomes, better placed than most to consider quality quarterback play, told ESPN: "His career is one of a kind. That's why he's the GOAT." 

There is no dispute, no debate: Brady is the greatest. 

The 44-year-old leads the way by most metrics, including the most important one, with an unprecedented seven Super Bowl championships. 

Yet the stunning nature of some of those successes mean the emotional argument in Brady's favour is as convincing as the statistical one. 

Unmoved by his NFL-record 84,520 passing yards? Try the Super Bowl LI comeback against the Atlanta Falcons. 

This career had it all, and most dissenting voices had long since disappeared by the time Brady arrived in Tampa in 2020 "as the greatest football player of all time", as Bruce Arians put it. He still had another title in him. 

But Brady has not just set the standard in the NFL for the past 22 years; his achievements are surely unmatched across the entire sporting world. 

BEATING THE BEST

Wrestling with past legacies is never easy for an elite sports star. Even as the best of their generation, comparisons will be drawn with those who have gone before. 

In the case of LeBron James in the NBA, Michael Jordan casts a long shadow. 

James may now widely be considered the second-greatest player in the history of the league, but the gap to the number one spot scarcely seems to be closing, even now with titles and Finals MVP recognition on three different teams – and his own Space Jam sequel. 

Elsewhere, Formula One's Lewis Hamilton has done what James could not with Jordan in matching Michael Schumacher's haul of titles. 

But when Hamilton closed in on a record-breaking eighth drivers' championship in 2021, rival Sebastian Vettel scoffed: "Even if Lewis wins, to me Michael is still the greatest. Lewis can win one more, two more, three more, five more championships, but it doesn't change anything for me." 

The combination of being unable to see two athletes side by side and having memories tinged with nostalgia makes life hard on the modern great. 

For Brady, Joe Montana was the closest thing to a Jordan or Schumacher figure at quarterback. 

Although Montana ranked sixth for all-time passing yards – Dan Marino, the 20th century's passing yards leader, never won a title – his four Super Bowls had matched Terry Bradshaw's benchmark and were still fresh enough in the memory in 2000, the last coming in the 1989 season. 

Yet that was a gap Brady was swiftly able to bridge. By August 2005, with three rings already in his collection, the headline of a GQ profile asked if the Patriots passer was "the best there ever was". 

At 27, 10 years younger than James and Hamilton are now, there appeared little doubt Brady would leave Marino behind. 

TOP OF HIS CLASS

Perhaps Brady benefited from the standard of the competition. His career overlapped with Brett Favre at the start, Mahomes at the end and met with Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers somewhere around the middle, all of them forcing him to raise his game. 

But such depth of talent can so easily muddy the waters. 

Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have matched each other stride for stride, meaning there remains no consensus pick for football's 'GOAT'. Both merit the position, yet neither have dominated an era like Pele or Diego Maradona. 

In tennis, the tussle is even more intense. Until Rafael Nadal's Australian Open triumph on Sunday, three men were tied on a record 20 grand slam titles. 

Injuries to Roger Federer and coronavirus complications with Novak Djokovic may be enough to keep Nadal at the summit, but personal preference dictates the all-time rankings when the margins are so fine. 

Again, however, Brady came through. None of those modern-day rivals have won three Super Bowls, let alone matching Montana's four or Brady's staggering seven. 

Mahomes had appeared the most likely to challenge that mark in the years to come, but four seasons as a starter have now yielded one title. At the same point, Brady had three and that GQ headline. 

"To win that many Super Bowls and win that many games, it's hard," Mahomes said after losing Sunday's AFC Championship Game. "I understand that. The years that I've had, I've been close a lot.  

"I've only been there twice, and I've only won once. I understand it takes a special player ... for that to happen." 

In Joe Burrow, Josh Allen and Justin Herbert, Mahomes will not have it easy going forward either – an exciting new generation guarding Brady's legacy, not that he could not have done it himself had he chosen to play on. 

Brady, in the regular season and playoffs, holds a 3-2 record against Mahomes, 4-0 against Allen and 1-0 against Herbert. He never faced Burrow, potentially the next Super Bowl-winning QB. 

Instead, the perennial winner departs not as a champion – he has been that enough times – but as undoubtedly the best player his sport has ever seen. A rare phenomenon indeed. 

Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic each paid tribute to Rafael Nadal after he passed the pair with his 21st grand slam title at the Australian Open.

Nadal set a new men's singles benchmark, breaking a three-way tie with Federer and Djokovic on 20 triumphs, as he battled back against Daniil Medvedev.

The Spaniard, whose career had appeared to be in some doubt last year due to injury, fought for over five hours to recover from two sets down in Sunday's epic final.

Federer, through injury, and Djokovic, deported amid coronavirus controversy, were both absent in Melbourne, although they have previously let slip respective opportunities to move to 21 titles.

Both therefore recognised the scale of Nadal's achievement as they took to social media.

"What a match! To my friend and great rival @rafaelnadal, heartfelt congratulations on becoming the first man to win 21 grand slam singles titles," Federer wrote on his Instagram story.

"A few months ago we were joking about both being on crutches. Amazing. Never underestimate a great champion.

"Your incredible work ethic, dedication and fighting spirit are an inspiration to me and countless others around the world.

"I am proud to share this era with you and honoured to play a role in pushing you to achieve more, as you have done for me for the past 18 years.

"I am sure you have more achievements ahead but for now enjoy this one!"

Djokovic, posting for the first time since the tournament started in his absence, said on Twitter: "There has been some outstanding tennis played at this year's #AusOpen and the finals were exceptional.

"Congratulations to @ashbarty for an amazing performance in front of her home crowd and to Danielle Collins for an incredible tournament.

"Congratulations to @RafaelNadal for 21st GS. Amazing achievement. Always impressive fighting spirit that prevailed another time. Enhorabuena.

"@Medwed33 gave it his all out there and played with the passion and determination we have come to expect from him."

Rafael Nadal said winning a record 21st grand slam felt "just amazing" as he staged a mesmerising comeback to beat Daniil Medvedev in the Australian Open final.

The 35-year-old Spaniard won 2-6 6-7 (5-7) 6-4 6-4 7-5 in five hours and 24 minutes on Rod Laver Arena, snatching victory in a match that looked Medvedev's for the taking after two sets.

In the process, Nadal went past great rivals Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic on the all-time list of men's singles grand slam winners, just months after a foot injury left him with doubts over his future in tennis.

For Medvedev this was a second successive Australian Open final defeat, having lost to Djokovic 12 months ago, and his frustration was apparent over his failure to close out the match from two sets in front.

This was Nadal's second Australian Open title and first since 2009, when he beat Federer in another five-set tussle. At the end of this match, as Nadal celebrated, the great Laver himself was captured on television footage taking a photograph of the scene.

It was 01:32 on Monday morning in Melbourne when Nadal got his hands on the trophy, and as he addressed the crowd, he began: "Good evening everybody. Well, good morning at least."

Nadal had sympathy for Medvedev, describing the Russian as "an amazing champion". Reflecting on his own disappointments in Melbourne, where he has lost four finals, Nadal said: "I don't have any doubt you'll have this trophy a couple of times in your career because you're amazing."

Roared on by thousands of witnesses to history, Nadal told Medvedev: "It has been one of the most emotional matches of my tennis career, and to share this court with you is just an honour."

There were no tears from Nadal. He was briefly stumped for words to recognise his achievement, saying: "I even don't know what to say, guys.

"For me, it's just amazing. One month and a half ago I didn't know if I would be able to be back on the tour playing tennis again, and today I'm in front of you having this trophy with me.

"You really don't know how much I've fought to be here. Thank you so much for the love and the support. Without a doubt I am having probably one of the most emotional moments in my tennis career."

Nadal lost a five hours and 53 minutes epic against Djokovic in the 2012 Australian Open final. That remains the longest grand slam final in history, but this pushed it close.

The champion said the support he was shown in Melbourne would "stay in my heart for the rest of my life", before pointing again to his battle to get fit after the foot problem that forced him to abandon his 2021 season in August.

"One month and a half ago, I would have said maybe there is a chance that's going to be my last Australian Open," Nadal said. "But now that's plenty of energy to keep going, so thank you very much.

"I really can't explain the feelings I have right now, but I'm going to try my best to keep coming next year."

A humdinger of a final saw Medvedev force a two-set lead, only for Nadal to dramatically level the match, the 35-year-old rolling back the years.

Nadal broke early in the decider to lead 3-2 and then withstood fierce pressure from Medvedev in the next game.

It was astonishing that the Spaniard was outmanoeuvring a man 10 years his junior, and a player who beat Djokovic in straight sets in last year's US Open final.

At 5-4, Nadal had a service game to cross the winning line. Federer missed a chance to reach 21 slams when he could not take two championship points against Novak Djokovic in the 2019 Wimbledon final, and this was a similar opportunity for Nadal.

At 30-15, he served a double fault, and Medvedev pounced on his chance, winning the next point after a fizzing forehand and smash, and the next when Nadal netted. The decider was back on serve, but Nadal was not finished, engineering three break points in the next game and jumping on the third of those, Medvedev hoisting a forehand long.

This time Nadal was not to be denied. When Medvedev could not scoop back a backhand volley, the title was Nadal's, and the broadest of smiles crossed his face.

Medvedev said defeat was "tough to take", but he added: "I want to congratulate Rafa because what he did today, I was amazed.

"I tried just to play tennis, but after the match I asked him, 'Are you tired?'.

"It was insane. I think the level was very high. You raised your level after two sets for the 21st grand slam. I thought he was going to get tried, and maybe you did just a little bit, but you're an amazing champion."

Looking at the race between Nadal, Djokovic and Federer to finish with the most slams, Medvedev said: "I think you guys have a good rivalry still. It's not over yet, but congrats."

Both men thanked tournament director Craig Tiley, who was close to the centre of the pre-tournament storm that saw Djokovic deported from Australia.

And Medvedev spared a thought for wife Daria, watching from home.

"Usually there's my wife in the [players'] box," he said, "but I think probably the TV's broken right now."

Daniil Medvedev described the three-man battle for grand slam history as "their thing, not mine" as he set his sights on denying Rafael Nadal a 21st major in Sunday's Australian Open final.

Russian Medvedev is the 6ft 6in obstacle blocking the route to history once again, just as he was at the US Open last September when he prevented Novak Djokovic becoming the first man to 21 and crushed the Serbian's hope of a first calendar sweep of the men's singles slams since Rod Laver's 1969 feat.

At the age of 25, Medvedev is 10 years Nadal's junior, and he has an awful long way to go before he is revered to the same degree as the 'Big Three' of Nadal, Djokovic and Roger Federer.

But Medvedev is asserting himself as the leader of the pack that will drive the men's game forward over the next decade, and he will be fancied by many to topple Nadal this weekend in Melbourne.

This will be his fourth slam final, after losing a marathon five-set tussle against Nadal at the 2019 US Open, being beaten ruthlessly by Djokovic in the Australian Open last year, and then storming to glory in New York.

Asked about the fact he has always faced elite opposition in his finals, Medvedev said: "They are really strong, huh? It's really tough to get into the final, and I always have them there waiting for me.

"But it's fun. When I was like eight, 10 years old I was playing against the wall and I was imagining that it's Rafa on the other side, or Roger. Novak was still not yet there, I think.

"Now I have the chance to play him [in a major final] for a second time. The first one was a close one, an epic one. I need to show my best, because that's what I took from the three finals that I had before, that you have to do better than 100 per cent in order to win. That's what I managed to do in the US Open. That's what I'm going to try to do on Sunday."

Medvedev, who beat Stefanos Tsitsipas in four sets in their semi-final on Friday, says Nadal's pursuit of the all-time men's grand slam record would not impact upon his own game.

"I'll be honest, on me it doesn't [have an effect]," Medvedev said. "It's not me going for the 21st, not me trying to break these records.

"I'm going for my second one. I'm still far from all these things. I'm just trying to focus on myself, doing my job.

"I'm not lying, I know what's happening, I know what Rafa is going for, I knew what Novak was going for. But it's kind of their thing, not mine. I'm just there to try to win the final."

It is clear Medvedev, a fiery character, has enormous respect for Nadal's ability to hold back from letting his own feisty emotions boil over.

"We know what Rafa's mentality in life is like. I don't know if I should call it this way, but he's like a perfect guy," Medvedev told a news conference.

World number two Medvedev will be attempting to become the first man in the Open Era to follow his maiden grand slam singles title with another at the next major. He said it would be a "great battle" against Nadal, and Medvedev, who predicted Djokovic would be keeping a close eye on the match, would be happy to disrupt the fairy tale narrative.

The ever-popular Nadal is coming back from a foot injury and has surpassed most expectations by sweeping through the draw, chasing his second Australian Open title but first since 2009, when he beat Federer.

"They are the three biggest players in the world: Novak, Rafa, Roger," Medvedev said. "All have done amazing, amazing records.

"Some of them have more records in total. They have all the same slams. Somebody has more Davis Cup titles, somebody has more Roland Garros, Australian Open, whatever.

"Rafa, especially what he's done at Roland Garros [winning 13 French Open titles], I really doubt somebody could ever beat this. But on the other ones, he's really strong also. I think it's going to be a debate for 20 years to come, no matter even who has the most slams, who of them was better. I want to say, they're all amazing."

Daniil Medvedev is convinced Novak Djokovic will be glued to Sunday's Australian Open final, as the men's grand slam record goes on the line once more.

It was Medvedev who denied Djokovic a 21st singles major in the US Open final in September, inflicting a straight-sets defeat on the Serbian who was chasing a sweep of the 2021 grand slams.

Now Medvedev stands in the way of another of the 'Big Three', with Rafael Nadal also chasing a 21st slam and the outright lead on the all-time list.

Djokovic, Nadal and Federer each have 20 grand slam singles titles, and it remains to be seen whether any of that trio triumph again on the big stage, with Medvedev confirming himself as a leader of the upcoming generation.

The deportation of Djokovic from Australia before this tournament caused a major stir, denying the nine-time champion at Melbourne Park a run at history.

And all Djokovic can do is sit and watch from a distance, perhaps hoping for a Medvedev victory.

"I guess last time Rafa was watching near the TV, I don't know who he was cheering for," Medvedev said, harking back to the US Open. "But I think Novak will be watching this one in two days also."

The mention of Djokovic in Medvedev's on-court interview led to rumblings in the crowd, with many Australians having been glad to see him removed from the country when his visa was revoked.

When Djokovic was again mentioned in a follow-up interview with Eurosport, Medvedev said: "I'm definitely not going to think about this before or during the match. After the match, depending on the result, I'm going to think about him a little bit and about Roger probably also."

Medvedev's first taste of a grand slam final was against Nadal at the 2019 US Open, when the Russian lost a five-set thriller.

"We've played a few matches since then, and I'm ready," Medvedev said. "I know Rafa is a very strong player and I will need to show my best to try to win this match."

Medvedev, runner-up to Djokovic in Melbourne last year, aimed an outburst of anger towards umpire Jaume Campistol during the second set of his four-set victory over Stefanos Tsitsipas on Friday.

He was furious at Tsitsipas seemingly being coached by the Greek star's father from the players' box, but Medvedev quickly realised his own behaviour was unhelpful.

"I don't think emotions, bad emotions, help me too much and when I made it, many times I lose the match because of this," he said. "As soon as I did it, I was like, 'That was a big mistake'.

"But I'm happy I managed to re-concentrate for the beginning of the third set."

Having lost the second set, Medvedev snatched a crucial break at the end of the third, before cruising through the fourth to seal a 7-6 (7-5) 4-6 6-4 6-1 victory.

Medvedev said he had felt "so dead" after beating Felix Auger-Aliassime in a near five-hour marathon in the quarter-finals, but his energy has been replenished.

"I'm happy today was not five hours, so I could recover faster for the next one," he said.

"I'm gonna play against one of the greatest, and what's funny is again I'm going to play someone going for the 21st slam."

Before the tussle with Nadal, Melbourne will be gripped by Ash Barty's own pursuit of history, bidding to become the first Australian since Chris O'Neil at the 1978 tournament to land the women's singles title.

Barty faces Danielle Collins on Saturday, and Medvedev, as is his wont, managed to rile some of Friday's crowd by being non-committal on whether he would watch Barty, whose title match begins at 19:30 local time (08:30 GMT).

"I'm usually going to dinner at 8.15pm," Medvedev said.

Urged by on-court interviewer Jim Courier to come up with a different answer, Medvedev added: "I'm going to watch it on my phone guys, I'm going to watch it."

Novak Djokovic looks set to return to tennis at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships in February.

The 20-time grand slam winner was deported from Australia on the eve of the Australian Open after his entry visa to the country was cancelled.

Djokovic, who told officials he was not vaccinated against COVID-19, believed he was still eligible to enter the country and compete after testing positive for coronavirus last month and making a full recovery.

Dubai does not have the same conditions for entry as Australia, and Djokovic will be free to compete at the tournament he has won five times previously provided that he can produce a negative PCR test result on arrival.

His place in the field was confirmed by tournament organisers on Thursday, with Djokovic joined by defending champion Aslan Karatsev and last year's beaten semi-finalists Andrey Rublev and Denis Shapovalov. The tournament runs from February 21 to 26.

After strong Australian Open campaigns, Felix Auger-Aliassime, Jannik Sinner and Gael Monfils have also entered the Dubai event, which will be staged for a 30th time.

Djokovic won a hat-trick of Dubai titles from 2009 to 2011, adding further triumphs in 2013 and 2020. Only Roger Federer, with eight titles, has had more success at the tournament.

Serbian superstar Djokovic is not entered for the ATP 500 events in Rotterdam or Rio de Janeiro that precede the Dubai tournament.

Unlike in Australia, the 34-year-old can likely expect the red-carpet treatment in Dubai, where Colm McLoughlin, CEO of tournament sponsors Dubai Duty Free, said: "We are delighted to see Novak back in Dubai for the 12th time when he will be seeking his sixth title and we wish him the best of luck."

Daniil Medvedev drew inspiration from Novak Djokovic in order to complete a storming comeback against Felix Auger-Aliassime at the Australian Open.

The Russian was two sets down and facing a quarter-final exit at the hands of his on-song opponent, but he dug deep to roar back and set up a last-four showdown with Stefanos Tsitsipas.

After sealing a memorable 6-7 (4-7) 3-6 7-6 (7-2) 7-5 6-4 victory under the roof on Rod Laver Arena, Medvedev revealed that asking himself what world number one Djokovic would do had provided the catalyst for his revival. 

Asked how he managed to win a contest in which he had looked down and out, the US Open champion responded: "I have no idea.

"Talking about the match point, I managed to serve well. If I had a second serve who knows what would have happened.

"I was not playing my best. Felix served unbelievable; I was all over the place.

"Then, I thought to myself, what would Novak do? So I said, 'I am going to make him work'.

"I managed to raise my level and when they closed the roof I was able to go through momentum and I started playing better."

Medvedev, who was beaten by Djokovic in last year's Melbourne final, faced a match point against Auger-Aliassime in the fourth set before finding his groove.

He rode his luck at times, with Auger-Aliassime only converting two of his 11 break points as Medvedev improved his record in meetings between the pair to 4-0.

Rafael Nadal's happiness does not depend on finishing his career with more grand slam titles than rivals Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer.

Nadal edged out Denis Shapovalov in a five-set epic on Tuesday to reach the Australian Open semi-finals.

The Spaniard has only won the season's opening grand slam once, back in 2009. However, the field has opened up for him this year, with reigning champion Djokovic unable to compete and 40-year-old Federer taking his time to return from knee surgery.

Nadal, Djokovic and Federer are all tied on 20 grand slams each, meaning the next of the trio to win a major will set a new record.

While Nadal is hoping to go all the way in Melbourne, he insisted his career satisfaction does not depend on being the record holder.

"The fact that we are equal at 20, the only thing that says is that we share an amazing [time] of the history of our sport, and for me it's a real honour to be part of it, without a doubt," he said.

"I don't hope for anything. I just keep going. I am just enjoying playing tennis, as I said hundreds of times. Honestly, and from the bottom of my heart, I really don't [have certain expectations].

"Of course, I want to keep winning, but more than because I want to achieve or I want to have more than the others, because I love what I am doing. I want to keep doing this as long as possible.

 

"The last six months there have been a lot of doubts if I would be able to keep going. But now I feel good. We are in a position that I won a tournament, I'm in the semi-finals of the Australian Open, so that's amazing for me.

"In terms of what can happen in the future, honestly I really don't care that much. I don't believe that my happiness, my future happiness depends on if I achieve one more grand slam than the others or if the others achieve more grand slams than me.

"No, I am super satisfied and feel very lucky for all the things that happen to me. I have a way to approach life. You can't be always frustrated if the neighbour has a bigger house than you or a better phone or a better thing, no? I'm not going to be frustrated if Novak or Roger finishes their careers with more grand slams than me.

"Let's enjoy the situation, every one of us, we did very special things in our sport. Let's enjoy that."

Nadal lost to Djokovic in the Melbourne final in 2019. He has reached the showpiece match five times in total.

The world number five had not played a competitive game since August last year before he returned to action earlier this month, winning the Melbourne Summer Set.

Nadal had dropped just one set across the opening four rounds prior to his clash with Shapovalov, which finished 6-3 6-4 4-6 3-6 6-3.

"Yeah, I have been playing well," Nadal added. "To play at this level against a player like [Shapovalov], that he's one of the best players of the world, and see myself again competitive against these kinds of players, for me it's everything.

"I'm just enjoying every single moment, try my best playing with the highest positive attitude possible and with the right spirit."

Novak Djokovic's deportation from Australia was "unjust" and the world number one will need time to move on from the saga, according to his long-time coach Marian Vajda.

The 20-time grand slam winner was denied the chance to claim a record-extending 10th crown at the Australian Open after having his visa cancelled on public health grounds.

Despite being unvaccinated against COVID-19, Djokovic had been given a medical exemption to travel to the country, only for that to be blocked by border officials.

He won his initial appeal to re-approve his visa, but immigration minister Alex Hawke used separate powers to revoke it again and a Federal Court upheld the decision.

The long-running case came to an end on Monday when Djokovic arrived back in Serbia, having reluctantly accepted the court's decision.

But Vajda, who has been part of Djokovic's coaching team for each of his grand slam titles, does not agree with the Australian government's handling of the situation.

"I still don't understand why they did it to him," Vajda told Slovakian outlet Aktuality. 

"It was an unhealthy and unjust decision, based on the assumption that Djokovic could do or influence something that had not yet happened.

"I can't imagine how he handled it. It must have been a huge suffering.

"He humbly endured all measures. But what they did to him must mark him. It is clear that it hit him mentally. 

"It will hurt him for a long time and it will be difficult to get it out of his head. However, I know him very well. Novak is strong, resolute and has not yet said his last word in tennis."

 

In a further blow for Djokovic, who has stood firm on his refusal to be vaccinated, it emerged this week that the Serbian may also miss the France Open later this year.

That is after stringent laws were passed in France ahead of May's tournament at Roland Garros that will make proof of vaccination status mandatory to enter sporting arenas.

"I don't understand this," Vajda added. "Why is it important for them to announce this now about the tournaments that will take place in May?

"The world doesn't even know what will happen to the pandemic in a month.

"I do not want to underestimate the whole situation. It is serious in the world. But what is the purpose of discussing it now in January? Is it still about sport?"

Gael Monfils admitted it felt "different" not to have Novak Djokovic in his draw at the Australian Open after reaching the fourth round.

Monfils, 35, moved into the last 16 at Melbourne Park with a 7-6 (7-4) 6-1 6-3 win over fellow seed Cristian Garin on Friday.

The Frenchman reached the fourth round of a major for the 20th time in his career, holding a 9-10 win-loss record in such matches, including losing five of his past six.

As he would have expected, a Serbian awaits him on Sunday – but it will be Miomir Kecmanovic and not Djokovic, who was removed from the draw after being deported from Australia prior to the start of the tournament.

Monfils has losing head-to-head records against Djokovic (0-17), Rafael Nadal (2-14) and Roger Federer (4-10).

"To be honest, for sure Novak is the world number one, and he always beat me, I never beat him. I lose to him, I lose to Roger, I lose to Rafa," he said after his win on Friday.

"When you go no matter what in a slam, for many years I've been losing to those big guys. Whoever is in the forefront, he's there for a reason, so it's going to be a big match no matter what.

"I think at that stage you don't really think about it, you're just like, okay, it's different, but different is not easier."

Monfils bowed out in the Australian Open first round last year, but enjoyed a strong finish to 2021 and started 2022 by winning the Adelaide International 1 event.

A winner of 11 ATP Tour titles, Monfils said he had put his early exit in Melbourne last year behind him.

"To be honest I tried to not even remember last year. I can just say that I'm here, I'm good," he said.

"I feel good, as I say. I worked, well, a lot harder, and I've just been playing great tennis for many months now since America last year. So I'm just me."

Australian Open chief executive Craig Tiley will not stand down from his position over the handling of the Novak Djokovic case and has refuted claims that Tennis Australia funded the world number one's legal expenses.

Tiley was speaking after the Federal Court published the written reasons for rejecting Djokovic's appeal to remain in Australia, stating it was "plainly open" to Immigration Minister Alex Hawke that the reigning Australian Open champion was opposed to a COVID-19 vaccination.

Djokovic failed in his second bid to overturn a decision from the government to cancel his visa on public health grounds at the Federal Court in Melbourne on Sunday, a day before the Australian Open started.

The 20-time grand slam winner arrived back in Belgrade on Monday, bringing an end to a saga that began after he was held at an airport in Melbourne on January 6 due to his travel declaration form containing incorrect information.

It was reported this week that Tennis Australia covered all of Djokovic's legal fees, but Tiley – who was jeered by spectators on Thursday while on-court to present flowers to the retiring Samantha Stosur – denied that was the case.

"I have seen those reports and we don't really go into the detail of financial arrangements we have with players," he told Channel 9. "But those reports are simply untrue."

Asked if he intended to step aside as chief executive due to the perceived mishandling of the saga, Tiley replied "no" before turning focus to the remainder of the tournament.

"I am very focused today on delivering a great event," he said.

"I am proud of being able to stand up here and you can see what is behind us. I am proud of what the team has done and what we have delivered so far."

Djokovic won his first appeal to avoid deportation from Australia, but Hawke used separate powers to again cancel the 34-year-old's visa.

That decision was taken amid much backlash in Australia and was upheld unanimously by three judges of the Federal Court's full bench.

Four days on from that verdict, which denied Djokovic the chance to win a record-extending 10th Australian Open crown, Chief Justice James Allsop delivered the court's reasons for rejecting the challenge.

It was found that it was reasonable for Hawke to be concerned by Djokovic's high-profile presence in the country as it "may encourage rallies and protests that may lead to heightened community transmission."

"An iconic tennis star may influence people of all ages, young or old, but perhaps especially the young and the impressionable, to emulate him," Allsop added in his report.

"This is not fanciful; it does not need evidence.

"Even if Mr Djokovic did not win the Australian Open, the capacity of his presence in Australia playing tennis to encourage those who would emulate or wish to be like him is a rational foundation for the view that he might foster anti-vaccination sentiment.

"I consider that behaviour by influential persons and role models, which demonstrates a failure to comply with, or a disregard of, public health measures has the potential to undermine the efficacy and consistency of the Australian Government’s and State and Territory Governments' management of the evolving COVID-19 pandemic.

"Mr Djokovic is such a person of influence and status. Having regard to the matters set out above regarding Mr Djokovic's conduct after receiving a positive COVID-19 result, his publicly stated views, as well as his unvaccinated status, I consider that his ongoing presence in Australia may pose a risk to the good order of the Australian community."

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.