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Novak Djokovic, who refuses to confirm if he is vaccinated against Covid-19, will not play the ATP Cup in early January in Australia. In addition, France will replace Austria in Group B after the withdrawal of Dominic Thiem and Dennis Novak.
World number 1 Novak Djokovic, who refuses to say whether or not he has been vaccinated against Covid-19, will not play the ATP Cup of the 1is to January 9 in Sydney, organizers announced Wednesday (December 29), heightening uncertainty over the Serbian’s participation in the Australian Open.
“World number one Novak Djokovic has withdrawn from the ATP Cup 2022. The Serbian squad will now be led by the 33e world, Dusan Lajovic, “the organizers said in a statement.
The ATP Cup, a nation-wide event organized by the ATP, marks the start of the new season on the men’s circuit. Djokovic, 34, still leaves doubt about his presence from January 17 to 30 in Melbourne, the first Grand Slam tournament of the year, which he has won nine times, especially in the last three editions.
Winner of three of the four Majors last season, Djokovic would become if he won in Melbourne the first tennis player to win 21 Grand Slam titles, breaking the record he currently holds with Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.
To be allowed to enter Australia and take part in the tournament, players, their entourage and members of their coaching staff must be vaccinated, unless they have a waiver. But Djokovic refuses to say whether he is vaccinated or not.
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His father Srdjan had declared at the end of November on Serbian television that Djokovic would “probably not” go to the Australian Open, denouncing a “blackmail” of the organizers.
The Australian Tennis Federation has set up charter flights to allow international players to travel to Melbourne and Sydney to participate in the preparatory tournaments.
Defending Australian Open champion Naomi Osaka of Japan was among those who landed on Tuesday. Djokovic was not on board.
Players also had the option of choosing to travel on a commercial flight.
Many withdrawn players
Djokovic is not the only player not to participate in the ATP Cup, due to Covid-19 or as a result of injuries. France will therefore replace Austria in Group B after the withdrawal of Dominic Thiem and Dennis Novak, organizers announced on Wednesday.
Russia’s team players Andrey Rublev, who contracted the coronavirus, Aslan Karatsev and Evgeny Donskoy have also withdrawn, as has American Austin Krajicek, the ATP Cup reported.
The presence of world tennis star Rafael Nadal also remains uncertain after he tested positive for Covid-19 upon his return from an exhibition tournament in Abu Dhabi in December.
His opponent in this tournament, Denis Shapovalov, semi-finalist at Wimbledon, also tested positive afterwards.
Three players participating in the same event also tested positive: Olympic gold medalist Belinda Bencic, US Open champion Emma Raducanu and Wimbledon quarter-finalist Ons Jabeur.
Earlier Wednesday, Australian player Nick Kyrgios urged Nadal and Djokovic to compete in the Australian Open, saying it would be a “disaster” if the “big three” were absent.
Swiss tennis icon Roger Federer has already announced his absence from the Australian Open after a year of hiatus due to a double intervention to the right knee.