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By Richard Pagliaro | Wednesday, December 29, 2021

 
Djokovic

Novak Djokovic has withdrawn from the ATP Cup in Syndey, will he travel to Melbourne to defend his Australian Open championship?

Photo credit: Tennis Australia/Australian Open Facebook

Novak Djokovic's return game continues to command attention—even when he's not striking a shot.

The world No. 1 won't be returning to ATP Cup action. Djokovic has withdrawn from the ATP Cup, set to start in Sydney on January 1st. Blic reported last week Djokovic was 99 percent certain to pull out and he did.

More: Nadal Tests Positive for Coronavirus

"World No. 1 Novak Djokovic has withdrawn from the ATP Cup," the tournament said in a statement. "Serbia remains in the competition and will be led by World No. 33 Dusan Lajovic."

Djokovic's departure from Sydney casts a shadow of uncertainty over his status for the Australian Open, which begins on January 17th at Melbourne Park.

All players must be vaccinated to play the 2022 Australian Open or have a medical exemption. Djokovic, who has declined to disclose his vaccination status calling it a personal health matter, has opposed tournaments mandating vaccinations in his past public comments.

Djokovic is reportedly seeking a medical exemption with Blic reporting Victorian government officials are nearing a decision on a medical exemption for the Serbian.

“As with all medical information, it is subject to confidentiality,” Tennis Australia told News Corp in response to reports of Djokovic requesting a medical exemption.

Reigning AO champion Djokovic has history within his reach if he plays the Melbourne major he's dominated. If he opts in, Djokovic will be playing for a men's record 21st Grand Slam title to take sole possession of the major mark he now shares with rivals Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer and capture a record-extending 10th Australian Open crown in the process. Djokovic, who crushed Daniil Medvedev in the 2021 AO final, has swept three straight Australian Open titles.

Defending AO women's champion Naomi Osaka was among several stars who arrived in Melbourne yesterday on private planes chartered by Tennis Australia.

Now, the tennis world watches and waits for Djokovic's final call on Melbourne.

Srdjan Djokovic, Novak's father, cast major doubt on his son competing down under.

The senior Djokovic said nine-time champion Novak definitely wants to play the AO, but believes "probably not under these conditions" calling the mandatory vaccination policy a form of "blackmail."

"Of course he would want to go with all his heart," Djokovic's father Srdjan told Serbian channel Prda TV in comments published by AFP. "Because he is a sportsman and there are a lot of our people, the (Serbian) diaspora, there who would be delighted to see Novak.

"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."



AO tournament director Craig Tiley believes Djokovic will play Melbourne for one massive reason: attaining history.

"Novak has won nine Australian Opens, I'm sure he wants to get to 10," Tiley told Australia's SEN Radio. "He's on 20 Grand Slam titles as is Rafa Nadal, who is coming, and Roger Federer.

"One of them is going to surpass the other and I don't think Novak would want to leave that to someone else."



Twenty-time Grand Slam champion Federer and 2014 AO champion Stan Wawrinka have withdrawn continuing their rehab from surgery and injury. Nadal, who defeated Federer in a thriller to win his lone AO title in 2009, is isolating at home after testing positive for Coronavirus and is expected to announce his status for Melbourne in the coming days.

 

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