Novak Djokovic gets top seed in delayed Australian Open draw despite uncertainty over status
MELBOURNE, Australia — Novak Djokovic now knows he’ll face fellow Serbian Miomir Kecmanovic in the first-round of his Australian Open title defense, if he’s allowed to play.
Djokovic’s visa status dominated attention until the moment the draw was conducted Thursday to determine the brackets for the men’s and women’s singles draws at the first major tennis tournament of 2022.
And still after it.
The Australian immigration minister was still considering whether to deport the nine-time and defending Australian Open champion, who is not vaccinated against COVID-19.
So Djokovic remained in limbo.
Top-ranked Djokovic had his visa canceled on arrival in Melbourne last week when his vaccination exemption was questioned, but he won a legal battle on procedural grounds that allowed him to stay in the country.
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Immigration Minister Alex Hawke has been considering the question since a judge reinstated Djokovic’s visa on Monday.
The 34-year-old Djokovic has been trying to focus his attention on the playing court in the four days since he was released from immigration detention. He held a practice session at Rod Laver Arena, his fourth this week, in the mid-afternoon.
If he’s allowed to stay, Djokovic’s bid for a men’s record 21st major title could mean a quarterfinal against No. 7-ranked Matteo Berrettini and possibly a semifinal against Rafael Nadal or third-seeded Alexander Zverev, who are both on the bottom side of his half of the draw.
On the women’s side, top-ranked Ash Barty and defending champion Naomi Osaka ended up in the same section of the draw, meaning two of the best players in the tournament could meet in a fourth-round match that has the feeling of a final.
Osaka, who has been ranked as high as No. 1, slid down the list because of her lack of matches in 2021 and is seeded 13th.
The Australian Open draw was delayed at least 75 minutes Thursday amid uncertainty over Djokovic’s visa status.
It was was scheduled to be held at 3 p.m. local time in Melbourne, but a tournament official told waiting media that the ceremony had been postponed until further notice and declined further comment.
It was later rescheduled to 4:15 p.m. local time.
The Australian Open begins Monday. Djokovic traveled to Australia seeking to win a 21st Grand Slam titles to break the men’s record of 20 he shared with Roger Federer and Nadal.