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December 8, 2021

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Djokovic named in Serbia team for pre-Australian Open ATP Cup

After months of speculation that Novak Djokovic may miss the Australian Open over tough COVID-19 vaccination requirements, the world No. 1 was yesterday named to play in a Sydney tournament weeks before.

The 20-time Grand Slam champion had cast doubt on whether he would defend his title at Melbourne Park next month, refusing to reveal whether he was inoculated against the novel coronavirus.

However, he was listed as part of the five-man Serbia team when the draw was made for the ATP Cup in Sydney that will precede the opening major of the year.

Rafael Nadal was missing, with the Spanish fellow 20-time Grand Slam winner last month suggesting he would play an exhibition in Abu Dhabi this month, then another tournament before arriving in Melbourne for the Australian Open.

The only other absent top 20 player for the 16-team ATP Cup was injured Swiss great Roger Federer.

“The playing group enjoy representing their countries and to see 18 of the world’s top 20 players commit to the event is testament to that,” said tournament director Tom Larner. “The event shows off the passion the playing group have for this format.”

An ATP statement accompanying the draw noted that top seed Serbia was “headlined by world No. 1 Novak Djokovic”, who won three of the season’s four Grand Slams.

The Serb ended his rollercoaster season with a Davis Cup loss last week and then promised to make a decision on his Australian Open participation “very soon”.

Organizers of the Australian Open have insisted only fully-vaccinated players will be allowed into the country, which saw Djokovic’s father Srdjan last month suggest his son “probably won’t” play.

“Of course he would want to go with all his heart,” he told Serbian television.

“But I really don’t know if that will happen. Probably not under these conditions, with this blackmail and when it’s done that way.”

Djokovic, 34, contracted COVID-19 during the ill-fated Adria Tour event he organized in the Balkans in June 2020, but said he didn’t have any symptoms.

Russia is the defending ATP Cup champion after its team spearheaded by Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev swept past a Matteo Berrettini-led Italy in the final.

Djokovic’s Serbia won the inaugural event in 2020, beating Nadal-led Spain.

The teams in next year’s US$10-million event, from January 1-9, are divided into four groups of four, playing across two Sydney venues — the Ken Rosewall Arena and Qudos Bank Arena — with each tie comprising two singles matches and one doubles.

The event kicks off a bumper series of ATP and WTA tournaments in the lead-up to the Australian Open, beginning on January 17, with events across Sydney, Adelaide and Melbourne.


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