Tennis Australia insist no loopholes are being explored after Djokovic is named on Australian Open entry list

By Sports Desk December 08, 2021

Novak Djokovic has been included in the official entry list for the 2022 Australian Open, with Tennis Australia adamant that no loopholes are being explored.

The world number one, who has won nine of his 20 grand slam titles in Melbourne, has not yet disclosed his COVID-19 vaccination status, meaning there is doubt over whether he will be able to participate.

Every person competing or attending the grand slam next month will need to have been fully vaccinated against coronavirus.

However, despite the uncertainty, the 34-year-old was named in the official list of players for the tournament draw.

Djokovic had already been named in Serbia's team for the ATP Cup, which is to be held in Sydney, leading to speculation that he could enter Australia by travelling directly to New South Wales, which has different COVID-19 restrictions to the state of Victoria, and may then seek a medical exemption to get around the rules applying to unvaccinated travellers.

James Merlino, Victoria's deputy premier, responded to these reports, which also suggested Djokovic had the backing of Tennis Australia.

"My view on this is really clear and really simple," Merlino said on Wednesday. "Everyone's looking forward to the Australian Open and everyone who will attend – spectators, players, officials, staff – everyone is expected to be fully vaccinated.

"They're the rules. Medical exemptions are just that – it's not a loophole for privileged tennis players. It is a medical exemption in exceptional circumstances if you have an acute medical condition."

Tennis Australia responded to Merlino's comments with a statement of their own.

"Any suggestion that Tennis Australia is seeking 'loopholes' within this process is simply untrue. Adjudicating on medical exemptions is the domain of independent medical experts. We are not in a position to influence this process and nor would we," the statement read.

"Any application for a medical exemption must follow strict government guidelines based on ATAGI (Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation) clinical advice. This is the same process that applies to any person wanting to enter Australia."

While Djokovic's participation is unclear, Serena Williams is a big-name absentee. The 40-year-old, who is one shy of matching Margaret Court's record tally of 23 grand slams, had been expected to play in Melbourne.

Roger Federer had already confirmed his absence, but Rafael Nadal is set to compete for the first time since August.

World number two and US Open champion Daniil Medvedev takes his place in the draw, as does 2020 Australian Open finalist Dominic Thiem.

Australian world number one Ash Barty headlines the women's field, with Naomi Osaka, US Open winner Emma Raducanu and WTA Finals champion Garbine Muguruza also in the draw.

Bianca Andreescu, the 2019 US Open champion, has decided to skip the event to focus on her mental wellbeing.

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  • Australian Open: Nadal almost pulled out just days before travelling, says uncle Toni Australian Open: Nadal almost pulled out just days before travelling, says uncle Toni

    Rafael Nadal almost pulled out of the Australian Open just days before heading to Melbourne, according to his uncle.

    The 35-year-old battled past Denis Shapovalov on Tuesday to reach the semi-finals of the tournament for just the third time since 2016.

    Nadal, who is chasing a record 21st grand slam title to break the three-way tie with Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, has only won the first major of the year once in his career – back in 2009 – and lost at the quarter-final stage in 2020 and 2021.

    Even with nine-time champion Djokovic not competing after being deported by border authorities over a visa dispute, few considered Nadal to be the favourite for the title this year given he went from August to December in 2021 without playing a match, having undergone surgery on a foot injury.

    Nadal has looked in strong form, though, even recovering from apparent stomach trouble and difficulty in the heat to beat Shapovalov 6-3 6-4 4-6 3-6 6-3 after more than four hours of action on Rod Laver Arena.

    Toni Nadal, his coach for most of his professional career, said his nephew nearly decided against competing at all in Australia as he did not feel ready.

    Asked if he were surprised by Nadal's form, he told Cadena SER: "Yes, I'm surprised, because I remember when three days before the start, Rafa called my youngest son to hit a few balls after being quarantined due to coronavirus.

    "At nine o'clock, we went to train and during training, he said, 'I don't know if I'm going to go or not because at the moment I'm not in condition for an Australian Open'. They only had three days to get a flight.

    "The following day, he perked up and said 'Okay, come on, I'm going'. I think it was more the excitement of competing and returning to competition than believing in himself."

    Speaking about the quarter-final, Toni Nadal said his brother in Australia told the family about the problems with the heat on court.

    "He looked good. In the first two sets, he played at quite a good level against a tough opponent," he said.

    "Everything changed as a result of heatstroke. We were watching the game with the family and at one point, after the second set, I said, 'well, I think this is done', and my brother in Australia said no, he's literally exhausted, and he'd told them he had had heatstroke."

    Shapovalov lost his temper with umpire Carlos Bernardes during the match for refusing to give Nadal a time violation during a change of ends, proclaiming "You guys are all corrupt" before claiming post-match that players such as Nadal receive preferential treatment on court.

     

    "I think he is totally wrong," said Toni. "When you have to change, you need time and the umpire normally looks at the players and sees the time and starts the clock later. He pressed too soon, realised it and that's why he gave Rafa more time.

    "Young people sometimes act without thinking. How could an umpire be corrupt?"

  • Australian Open: Berrettini makes Italian tennis history again to set up Nadal semi-final Australian Open: Berrettini makes Italian tennis history again to set up Nadal semi-final

    Matteo Berrettini became the first Italian man to reach the Australian Open semi-finals after outlasting Gael Monfils on Tuesday.

    Berrettini had appeared to be on course for a dominant victory, and although Monfils fought back to make it tough, the 25-year-old got the job done 6-4 6-4 3-6 3-6 6-2 in a gruelling encounter.

    Monfils had an uphill struggle amid a sloppy start, with Berrettini breaking to love in the fifth game as the Frenchman committed two unforced errors and a double fault.

    That proved to be the only opportunity Berrettini needed, and he subsequently had few issues seeing out the set from there, though Monfils initially appeared sharper early in the second.

    An astonishing fourth game then left Monfils looking dejected as Berrettini somehow survived 10 deuces to hold serve after almost 20 minutes – the 25 points played here were almost half the first-set total (55).

    Berrettini sensed the mood and went for the kill, losing just two points on serve before going on to close out the set to love.

    A reaction did come, however. Monfils finally got his first break of serve as Berrettini's first double fault gifted him a lifeline, the 35-year-old then easing through the rest of the third set.

    He kept that up in the fourth as well, with two huge forehand winners helping Monfils go a break up to take charge before ultimately levelling the match, but Berrettini had too much in the decider as he broke in the first game.

    Berrettini raced into a 4-0 lead and, although Monfils did pull a couple of games back, the Italian was out of sight and clinched a deserved victory that saw him grab a slice of history.

    DATA SLAM: Berrettini holds his nerve at the crucial moment

    Having lost the previous two sets heading into the decider, it could have been very tempting for Berrettini to completely change up his game, but he remained very focused on accuracy and essentially letting Monfils shoot himself in the foot.

    Berrettini made no double faults and just four unforced errors in the final set, compared to Monfils' combined total of 11, 10 of which came during rallies. The Italian won 80 per cent of his points on serve in the fifth and that mentality was crucial in outlasting his opponent.

    WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS

    Berrettini – 51/50

    Monfils – 48/51

    ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS

    Berrettini – 12/2

    Monfils – 15/7

    BREAK POINTS WON

    Berrettini – 4/11

    Monfils – 3/14

  • Australian Open: Nadal's happiness not dependent on breaking grand slam record Australian Open: Nadal's happiness not dependent on breaking grand slam record

    Rafael Nadal's happiness does not depend on finishing his career with more grand slam titles than rivals Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer.

    Nadal edged out Denis Shapovalov in a five-set epic on Tuesday to reach the Australian Open semi-finals.

    The Spaniard has only won the season's opening grand slam once, back in 2009. However, the field has opened up for him this year, with reigning champion Djokovic unable to compete and 40-year-old Federer taking his time to return from knee surgery.

    Nadal, Djokovic and Federer are all tied on 20 grand slams each, meaning the next of the trio to win a major will set a new record.

    While Nadal is hoping to go all the way in Melbourne, he insisted his career satisfaction does not depend on being the record holder.

    "The fact that we are equal at 20, the only thing that says is that we share an amazing [time] of the history of our sport, and for me it's a real honour to be part of it, without a doubt," he said.

    "I don't hope for anything. I just keep going. I am just enjoying playing tennis, as I said hundreds of times. Honestly, and from the bottom of my heart, I really don't [have certain expectations].

    "Of course, I want to keep winning, but more than because I want to achieve or I want to have more than the others, because I love what I am doing. I want to keep doing this as long as possible.

     

    "The last six months there have been a lot of doubts if I would be able to keep going. But now I feel good. We are in a position that I won a tournament, I'm in the semi-finals of the Australian Open, so that's amazing for me.

    "In terms of what can happen in the future, honestly I really don't care that much. I don't believe that my happiness, my future happiness depends on if I achieve one more grand slam than the others or if the others achieve more grand slams than me.

    "No, I am super satisfied and feel very lucky for all the things that happen to me. I have a way to approach life. You can't be always frustrated if the neighbour has a bigger house than you or a better phone or a better thing, no? I'm not going to be frustrated if Novak or Roger finishes their careers with more grand slams than me.

    "Let's enjoy the situation, every one of us, we did very special things in our sport. Let's enjoy that."

    Nadal lost to Djokovic in the Melbourne final in 2019. He has reached the showpiece match five times in total.

    The world number five had not played a competitive game since August last year before he returned to action earlier this month, winning the Melbourne Summer Set.

    Nadal had dropped just one set across the opening four rounds prior to his clash with Shapovalov, which finished 6-3 6-4 4-6 3-6 6-3.

    "Yeah, I have been playing well," Nadal added. "To play at this level against a player like [Shapovalov], that he's one of the best players of the world, and see myself again competitive against these kinds of players, for me it's everything.

    "I'm just enjoying every single moment, try my best playing with the highest positive attitude possible and with the right spirit."

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