Australian Open 2022: Novak Djokovic scheduled for opening match despite visa cancellation

Novak Djokovic could go from the federal court to the tennis court inside 24 hours after tournament organisers scheduled first-round matches in the top half of the men’s singles draw on Monday.

Novak Djokovic could go from the federal court to the tennis court inside 24 hours. Picture: Kelly Defina/Getty Images.
Novak Djokovic could go from the federal court to the tennis court inside 24 hours. Picture: Kelly Defina/Getty Images.

Novak Djokovic could face the prospect of going from the federal court to the tennis court inside 24 hours after Australian Open organisers surprisingly scheduled first-round matches in the top half of the men’s singles draw on Monday.

The world No 1 from Serbia had his visa cancelled for a second time by the Australian government on “health and good order grounds” yesterday. He was due to be detained by immigration officers in Melbourne overnight before a preliminary procedural hearing for his appeal against the decision.

The full hearing, in which Djokovic’s participation in the grand-slam tournament will be determined, will almost certainly be held tomorrow. If the 34-year-old is successful, then there will be little time to prepare for his opening match against his compatriot, Miomir Kecmanovic, ranked No 78, on the Rod Laver Arena the next day.

Craig Tiley, the tournament director, declined to instead schedule the bottom half on Monday, perhaps mindful that accusations would inevitably follow of special treatment for Djokovic in the top half. Tiley is already under intense pressure over his role in the confusion surrounding the process of applying for a medical exemption in the absence of a Covid-19 vaccine.

Tournament director Craig Tiley refused to schedule the bottom half of the draw on Monday. Picture: Mark Baker - Pool/Getty Images.
Tournament director Craig Tiley refused to schedule the bottom half of the draw on Monday. Picture: Mark Baker - Pool/Getty Images.

Sue Barker is the latest high-profile figure to have expressed disappointment that the seemingly endless controversy has taken the spotlight away from the tournament. “I’ve had Covid and I know people that have suffered so badly,” Barker, the former British No 1, said. “The Australian public has had the strictest rules possible. So many of them weren’t even allowed to travel, let alone internationally, to visit sick or dying relatives in other parts of Australia.

“My sympathy has gone now because it’s now distracting from the whole tournament. This is a grand slam. We wanted the No 1 player in the world.

“He could have been there by being vaccinated. I know he’s chosen not to and that is his right, but it is also his choice and with that choice comes consequences, and this is why he is where he is now.”

Allies of Djokovic, on the other hand, were left infuriated at events over the ten days since he was first stopped at the border. “Toxic shame on each and everyone involved,” Janko Tipsarevic, a former Serbia Davis Cup player, said.

After the immigration minister, Alex Hawke, announced the decision at 6pm yesterday, an initial hearing for Djokovic’s appeal was held at the federal circuit court at 8.45pm. It took almost two and a half hours for the judge, Anthony Kelly, to finalise the transfer of the case to the superior federal court, which deals with more complex cases.

 - The Times

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