Djokovic included in Australian Open draw as visa decision looms | Tennis News

The deferred tournament draw includes the highest-ranked male player who can still cancel their visa for a second time.

Novak Djokovic, the world’s highest-ranked tennis player, has been included in the Australian Open’s draw despite uncertainty over whether the government will revoke his visa for a second time.

Australian Immigration Minister Alex Hawke is considering exercising his discretion to revoke Djokovic’s visa over concerns about the tennis player’s medical exemption from Australia’s COVID-19 vaccination requirements.

The draw took place at 4:15 pm Melbourne time (05:15 GMT) on Thursday.

The original draw was scheduled an hour and 15 minutes ago, but several minutes after it was supposed to start, it was announced that it had been postponed until further notice.

Djokovic, who was out of training at Rod Laver Arena earlier on Thursday, tied his unseeded Serbian teammate Miomir Kekmanovic in his opening match, which was expected to take place Monday or Tuesday.

Rafael Nadal put in the same inning, which means he could face Djokovic in the semi-finals.

Djokovic, a vaccine skeptic, sparked widespread outrage in Australia last week when he announced he was heading to Melbourne for the Australian Open with a medical exemption from requirements to vaccinate visitors against COVID-19.

Upon his arrival, Australian Border Force officials determined his exemption was invalid and he was held with asylum seekers in an immigration detention hotel for several days.

On Monday, the court allowed him to stay on the grounds that officials were “unreasonable” in the way they handled his interview in a seven-hour operation in the middle of the night.

The Australian government, which won strong support at home for its tough stance on border security before and during the pandemic, must now decide whether to allow Djokovic to stay and battle for the record 21st title.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison declined to comment on Djokovic’s visa on Thursday.

Djokovic’s mistake did not help his entry permit, as the box was ticked stating he had not traveled abroad in the two weeks prior to leaving Australia.

In fact, he went to Spain from Serbia. Djokovic, 34, credited the error to his agent and admitted he also had to reschedule an interview and photograph for a French newspaper in December while he contracted COVID-19.

Fans, including many Serbian Australians, lent him vociferous support when he was arrested, people who refused vaccinations hailed him as a hero, and his family described him as a champion for individual rights.

But Djokovic could face hostility from the fans if and when he goes out on the field.

Anger at this saga is spreading among Australians, who have a 90 per cent vaccination rate among adults and are battling a wave of the Omicron variant after enduring some of the world’s longest lockdowns aimed at curbing the pandemic.

“I don’t like his arrogance,” Melbourne resident Tehan Ismail said on Wednesday. “Looks like he was telling some lies as well. So I think maybe he should go back.”

There may also be resentment in the dressing room, where all but three of the 100 best male players are vaccinated.

Tennis player Martina Navratilova told Australian television that Djokovic should “suck it up” and go home.

“The bottom line is, sometimes your personal beliefs have to be trumped by what is good for the greater good, for those around you, for your peers,” she told Seven’s Sunrise. “You have two choices, either you get a vaccine or you don’t play.”

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