Daniil Medvedev is happy to be considered the favourite for the Australian Open title but says Rafael Nadal remains the man to beat at Melbourne Park.

World number two Medvedev is now the top-seeded player in the competition after Novak Djokovic was deported from Australia on Sunday.

Competing in his first grand slam since winning the US Open in September, Medvedev made a solid start by seeing off Henri Laaksonen 6-1 6-4 7-6 (7-3) on Tuesday.

The Russian, who lost last year's Australian Open final to Djokovic in straight sets, will now take on either Liam Broady or Nick Kyrgios in round two.

He is aiming to become the first man in the Open Era to follow up his maiden Grand Slam title with another in his next major appearance.

Medvedev is not shying away from the spotlight, but the 25-year-old considers Nadal the real favourite for the trophy because of his incredible record.

"I like pressure but last year I started well here in Australia in the ATP Cup and I managed to be in the final here," he said.

"The tournaments in Australia are always really important for me. I like to play in Australia on hard courts. I want to do better here than I did last year but it's not going to be easy.

"But I always say whoever is the highest ranked is the favourite so this time I will go with Rafa because he has 20 Grand Slams."

The 20 major singles titles won by Nadal is equal to Djokovic and Roger Federer, who is also absent in Melbourne due to injury, as the most by a men's player.

 

Just one of those titles have come at the Australian Open, however, with the Spaniard – who beat Marcos Giron in his opening match on Monday – going all the way in 2009.

Nadal and Medvedev are in opposite sides of the draw and are on course to meet in the final, but many challengers await between now and then.

That path became a little clearer on Tuesday as world number eight Casper Ruud withdrew from the tournament due to an injured ankle.

Ruud had been due to face Alex Molcan in the first round, but his place will be taken by lucky loser Roman Safiullin.

Novak Djokovic could miss out on defending another of his Grand Slam titles, with France passing new vaccination laws that may threaten his ability to compete at Roland Garros later this year.

The 34-year-old will not defend his Australian Open title, with a drawn-out saga concerning his vaccination status culminating in his visa being cancelled for a second time after an intervention from Australian immigration minister Alex Hawke.

But the controversy surrounding the 20-time Grand Slam winner could be set to continue, with French parliament passing stringent vaccination laws ahead of May's French Open.

After French lawmakers comfortably passed the new measures, proof of vaccination status will soon be required to enter a wide variety of public places, including sports stadiums, and the country's sports ministry says there will be no exemptions for professional athletes. 

"The rule is simple. The vaccine pass will be imposed, as soon as the law is promulgated, in establishments that were already subject to the health pass," the ministry said.

"This will apply to everyone who is a spectator or a professional sportsperson, and until further notice.

"Now, as far as Roland Garros is concerned, it is in May. The situation may change between now and then, and we hope that it will be more favourable. 

"So, we'll see, but clearly, there's no exemption."

 

Djokovic, who is tied with Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer for all-time Slam wins in the men's game, has come in for widespread criticism regarding his failure to be vaccinated against COVID-19, as well as for appearing in public in the days after testing positive for the virus last month.

Meanwhile, Djokovic has arrived back in his native Serbia, travelling via Dubai from Melbourne to Belgrade after losing a last-ditch court appeal to remain in the country.

Rafael Nadal believes it would be "better for everybody" if Novak Djokovic was competing at the Australian Open, while declaring the situation a "mess".

Nadal sits level on 20 grand slam titles with Djokovic and Roger Federer but is the only one of tennis' 'Big Three' featuring in Melbourne.

Federer was ruled out due to ongoing knee injury problems, while Djokovic saw his visa cancelled for a second time on Sunday as he appealed Australia's refusal to let him into the country.

That ruling owed to Djokovic's unvaccinated status and Australia's coronavirus guidelines, leaving the Serbian unable to defend his Melbourne Park crown and seek a record-extending 21st grand slam.

Nadal has previously said he was "tired" of talking about the Djokovic saga, but the Spaniard again offered his thoughts after defeating Marcos Giron in the first round on Monday.

"Almost one week ago when he won in the first instance, the case, he was able to get back his visa and practising. I said the justice has spoken," Nadal told reporters.

"If the justice says his visa is valid and he's able to play here, the justice has spoken, so that's the fairest thing, that he deserves to play here. Yesterday the justice said another thing. I will never be against what the justice says.

"Another thing is what I believe personally and what I believe is the ideal situation personally, no?

"The ideal situation in the world of sport is that the best players are on court and playing the most important events. That's better for the sport without a doubt.

"If Novak Djokovic is playing here, it's better for everybody, no doubt about that. Another thing is what happened. As I said in the beginning, I can't say another thing because I believe that the situation is very clear now."

 

Pressed for an answer on his relationship with the 34-year-old world number one, Nadal wished his fellow competitor all the best.

"He's not the only one that did bad things in that case," Nadal added.

"Of course, there are more responsibilities on all for this terrible situation that we faced for the last two weeks. But of course, he is one of those responsible, too.

"So on a personal level, yes, I would like to see him playing here. If it is fair or not that he's playing here is another discussion that I don't want to talk anymore about that."

Nadal advanced to the second round in Melbourne with a cruising 6-1 6-4 6-2 victory over American Giron, who is ranked 66th in the world.

That was Nadal's fourth win of the year after triumphing at the Melbourne Summer Set and he appears to have battled through his foot injury, though he still expressed concerns over his fitness.

"It's been a very challenging few months… tough moments with a lot of doubts – there still are doubts," he said.

"But I am here and I can't be happier to be back in Australia in this amazing stadium.

"You never know when you come back from injury, which unfortunately I have a lot of experience with, how things will be, so you have to take it day by day. You have to forgive yourself if things aren't going the proper way."

Awaiting Nadal in the second round of the tournament will be either Australia's Thanasi Kokkinakis or Yannick Hanfmann of Germany.

Rafael Nadal made a strong start to his Australian Open campaign, brushing past Marcos Giron in the opening round on Monday.

The Spanish superstar outclassed American Giron in a resounding 6-1 6-4 6-2 victory on Rod Laver Arena.

Nadal, who can claim the outright lead for most grand slams won by a man if he clinches his 21st in Melbourne, was in good form.

Playing his first major since last year's French Open, Nadal – the only former champion in the draw following Novak Djokovic's deportation from the country – was never troubled by Giron.

Nadal reeled off five consecutive games to take the opening set in 24 minutes.

His excellent first set was highlighted by two brilliant winners to break for 5-1 as he completely dominated Giron.

Nadal capitalised on his momentum by breaking in the opening game of the second set, Giron finally stopping the run by holding for 1-2.

The Spaniard maintained his lead and was forced to serve out the set, doing so to 15 to take complete control.

A backhand pass saw Nadal break again in the opening game of the third set on his way to a comprehensive win, with Thanasi Kokkinakis or Yannick Hanfmann awaiting him in the second round.

 

DATA SLAM: Nadal makes no mistake in opener

Only twice in his illustrious career has Nadal lost in the opening round of a grand slam – at Wimbledon in 2013 and the 2016 Australian Open.

But since his defeat to Fernando Verdasco in Melbourne six years ago, Nadal has not lost a set in the Australian Open first round, continuing that record against Giron.

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS
Nadal – 34/26
Giron – 10/23

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS
Nadal – 7/2
Giron – 2/2

BREAK POINTS WON
Nadal – 5/9
Giron – 0/2

Novak Djokovic was back in detention on Saturday night as he awaited decision day in his battle to play at the Australian Open.

The end of the saga should come on Sunday when Djokovic's lawyers attempt to prevent the Serbian being deported.

A procedural hearing, where the matter was formally transferred from the Federal Circuit Court to the Federal Court of Australia, saw an 09:30 AEDT (Saturday 22:30 GMT) start to the case agreed upon.

Djokovic's lawyers secured an early procedural victory when it was decided the case should be heard by a full court, consisting of Chief Justice James Allsop, Justice Anthony Besanko and Justice David O’Callaghan.

That reduces the avenues for any possible appeal against the court's decision. Stephen Lloyd, who was appearing on behalf of immigration minister Alex Hawke, had indicated his preference for a single judge.

A central tenet of the case is set to be Hawke's assertion that Djokovic should be removed from the country "on health and good order grounds" and "in the public interest".

In submissions to the court issued by Djokovic's lawyers, Hawke is shown to say that he accepted the world number one recently tested positive for COVID-19.

However, Hawke adds that: "I am concerned that his presence in Australia, given his well-known stance on vaccination, creates a risk of strengthening the anti-vaccination sentiment of a minority of the Australian community."

The nine-time Australian Open champion's visa was revoked for a second time on Friday despite Djokovic winning his initial case on Monday.

His lawyers will dispute the minister's claims and push for Djokovic to be freed from detention to be able to defend his title at Melbourne Park.

In their application to the court, Djokovic's legal team state: "There was no evidence before the respondent that Mr Djokovic had made any comments about his vaccination status or expressed any 'views' regarding vaccination at any time during which he has been in Australia (on this occasion or previous occasions) or at any other time in any other location (post April 2020)."

For Djokovic, lawyer Nick Wood said on Friday that his client was of "negligible risk", "of good standing" and had a medical contraindication to a vaccine.

The Australian Open starts on Monday, when Djokovic hopes to begin his journey to what could be a 10th Melbourne slam and a record-breaking 21st major title.

Djokovic is scheduled to face countryman Miomir Kecmanovic in the first round.

Thanasi Kokkinakis fought back from a set down to beat Arthur Rinderknech and claim a maiden ATP Tour title at the Adelaide International 2 in his hometown.

Kokkinakis was beaten by Gael Monfils in the semi-final of the Adelaide International 1 last weekend, but the 25-year-old got his hands on the trophy on Saturday after a 6-7 (6-8) 7-6 (7-5) 6-3 win.

The Australian saved two match points in a semi-final defeat of Marin Cilic and showed his fight again to deny Rinderknech a first title.

Kokkinakis has had a tough time with injuries since rising to a career-high ranking 69 as a teenager in 2015, but he has shown what he is capable of early in the season ahead of the Australian Open.

There were no break point in the first two sets, but Frenchman Rinderknech failed to hold twice in the decider on a special day for Kokkinakis.

Kokkinakis said: "I wouldn't want to win my first title anywhere else. To my family, friends and coaches, what a ride it's been. You have seen me at my lowest lows and now the highest high. It's been a serious journey. For now, I am so happy.

"I've been playing and practising on this court since I was eight or nine years old, coming here before school every day. I love this court so much."

Kokkinakis will play qualifier Yannick Hanfmann in the first round of his home grand slam next week, while Rinderknech takes on Alexei Popyrin at Melbourne Park.

Aslan Karatsev failed to read the script as he beat Andy Murray in straight sets to win the Sydney Classic on Saturday.

Three-time grand slam champion Murray had rolled back the years to reach his first ATP Tour championship match since beating Stan Wawrinka in Antwerp back in October 2019.

There was to be no 47th ATP Tour singles title for the Briton at Ken Rosewall Arena, though, as Karatsev won 6-3 6-3 to ensure he will start the Australian Open next week with a spring in his step.

The world number 20 from Russia was a surprise semi-finalist in the first grand slam of the year at Melbourne Park last year and looks capable of making his presence felt again.

Karatsev struck 27 winners to 13 from the racket of former world number one Murray, who was unable to break the Vladikavkaz native's serve.

Murray failed to hold in the first game of the final and the opening set was over when he was broken for a second time.

Karatsev surged into a 3-0 lead in the second set and fended off five break points before finally holding to take a 4-1 lead, then went on to serve it out as he secured a third ATP Tour singles title, having been triumphant in Moscow and Dubai last year.

Murray will take great heart from the strides he has made this week and three years after fearing he may be force to retire at the Australian Open, the 34-year-old will face Nikoloz Basilashvili in the first round of the 2022 tournament next week.

Karatsev will do battle with Spaniard Jaume Munar for a place in the second round at Melbourne Park.

Novak Djokovic's Australian Open fate will be determined on Sunday although it remains to be decided if it will be in front of a full court or single judge.

Saturday's hearing was procedural with Justice David O'Callaghan transferring the matter to the Federal Court of Australia as agreed by both parties' lawyers for a 9:30am AEDT start.

The hearing was adjourned with the only contention that Djokovic's lawyers are in favour of the case being held before more than one judge, meaning no appeal to the full bench is possible.

Stephen Lloyd, who was appearing on behalf of the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, did not agree, with the court expected to make a decision later on Saturday.

“We say there isn’t a justification for stepping out of the ordinary," Lloyd told the court.

Djokovic's visa was revoked for a second time on Friday despite the 34-year-old winning his initial case on Monday.

The Serbian world number one is fighting the decision, and lawyer Nick Wood, on behalf of Djokovic, contended in a directions hearing on Friday evening that the "underlying new rationale" behind the Australian government's latest move to kick out the Serbian is that it contends his presence "will excite anti-vax sentiment".

Wood said immigration minister Alex Hawke had given no consideration to the impact that deporting Djokovic may have among those opposed to COVID-19 vaccines, saying his client was of "negligible risk", "of good standing" and had a medical contraindication to a vaccine.

In a statement released on Friday, Hawke said the decision had been taken "on health and good order grounds, on the basis that it was in the public interest to do so".

The Australian Open is due to commence on Monday where Djokovic was aiming for his 10th Melbourne slam. Djokovic was also hoping to challenge for a record-breaking 21st major title.

Djokovic is scheduled to face countryman Miomir Kecmanovic in the first round in Melbourne on Monday.

Novak Djokovic was detained once again by Australian border force officials ahead of Saturday's crucial hearing, according to widespread reports.

It was agreed in court on Friday that the world number one would be detained in Melbourne, ahead of a hearing that will take place with justice David O'Callaghan from the Federal Court on Saturday at 10:15 (Friday 23:15 GMT).

Djokovic, whose visa was revoked for a second time on Friday despite the 34-year-old winning his initial case on Monday, was granted permission to remain at his accommodation but it was agreed he would be detained at 08:00 in Melbourne when he was due to report for an interview with immigration officials.

The 34-year-old is fighting the decision, and lawyer Nick Wood, on behalf of Djokovic, contended in a directions hearing on Friday evening that the "underlying new rationale" behind the Australian government's latest move to kick out the Serbian is that it contends his presence "will excite anti-vax sentiment".

Wood said immigration minister Alex Hawke had given no consideration to the impact that deporting Djokovic may have among those opposed to COVID-19 vaccines, saying his client was of "negligible risk", "of good standing" and had a medical contraindication to a vaccine.

In a statement released on Friday, Hawke said the decision had been taken "on health and good order grounds, on the basis that it was in the public interest to do so".

Djokovic has expressed opposition to vaccine mandates in the past and has confirmed he has not been vaccinated against coronavirus.

The case has been transferred from the Federal Circuit Court to the Federal Court of Australia, judge Anthony Kelly said, and will take place via videolink.

Whatever decision is made, this is woeful preparation for Djokovic ahead of the tournament where he was planning to mount an assault on a 10th Australian Open title, and a record-setting 21st grand slam.

Djokovic will then be allowed to attend meetings with his solicitors in person from 10:00 to 14:00 on Saturday, accompanied by Border Force officials, before returning to a detention hotel until he is reunited with his solicitors from 09:00 on Sunday.

To avoid possible disorder on the streets, he is set to meet his legal team away from their Melbourne offices, where fans gathered and unruly behaviour took place following Djokovic's first effort to clear a path to play at the tournament that begins on Monday.

Should Djokovic lose his case, he faces being deported from Australia.

Nick Kyrgios is a doubt to take part at the Australian Open after testing positive for COVID-19.

The Australian star withdrew from the Sydney Tennis Classic hours before he was due to face Fabio Fognini.

The 26-year-old had already pulled out of the Melbourne Summer Set last week after struggling with an unknown illness that affected his asthma.

He was tested for coronavirus but all had come back negative until Monday.

With the first grand slam of 2022 just one week away, Kyrgios hopes he will recover in time to enter the draw.

"Hey everyone, I just want to be open and transparent with everyone, the reason I have had to pull out of Sydney is because I tested positive for Covid," he wrote on Instagram.

"I am feeling healthy at the moment with no symptoms. I wish everyone all the best and to stay safe where you can.

"If all goes well I will see you all at the Australian Open."

Kyrgios has not played a singles match since losing to Stefanos Tsitsipas at the Laver Cup last September and has dropped to 114 in the world rankings.

The former world number 13, who lost a thrilling five-set match with Dominic Thiem in the round of 32 in Melbourne last year, has only once gone as far as the quarter-finals at his home grand slam.

He reached the last eight in 2015, where he lost in straight sets to beaten finalist Andy Murray.

Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime clinched a maiden ATP Cup crown for Canada with victories over Spain's Pablo Carreno Busta and Roberto Bautista Agut in Sunday's final.

Canada lost their opening four matches of the competition but recovered in style to reach a first final, which they won 2-0 with a couple of commanding straight-sets wins in the singles matches.

Shapovalov saw off Carreno Busta 6-4 6-3 in the opening singles rubber to give Canada, who had to rely on other results to avoid elimination earlier in the tournament, the lead in Sydney.

World number 11 Auger-Aliassime followed that up with a 7-6 (7-3) 6-3 victory against Bautista Agut to give Canada an unassailable 2-0 lead, meaning that there was no need for a doubles decider.

"The emotions are unbelievable. There's no better feeling than winning," Auger-Aliassime, who saved 10 of the 11 break points he faced, said in his on-court interview. "We left everything out there. 

"We came back from far in this competition, losing our first four matches. But we never stopped believing. I think that's very important. We trust each other to the highest level.

"It came down to the perfect result. I'm super thrilled for everybody in the whole team and myself, of course."

Canada become the third nation to have lifted the trophy after Serbia, who beat Spain 2-1 in the 2020 final, and Russia in 2021.

Andy Murray believes Novak Djokovic's situation ahead of the Australian Open does not reflect well on anyone involved, nor the game of tennis in general.

Djokovic is currently in immigration detention at the Park Hotel in Melbourne.

The world number one, who has not revealed his COVID-19 vaccination status, received a medical exemption to feature in the Australian Open, which begins on January 17. He is the reigning champion and has won the tournament nine times.

All competitors at Melbourne Park must either be vaccinated or have a valid medical reason not to have had the vaccine. Australia, and Melbourne in particular, has had strict restrictions in place throughout the pandemic.

However, Djokovic's visa application was rejected by Australian border force officials. The Serbian star will now await the outcome of a hearing, set to take place on Monday, to determine whether he will be allowed to compete or be deported, with the Australian government losing an appeal to delay the hearing.

Murray, a five-time Australian Open finalist, cannot see how the situation looks good for anybody.

"I think everyone is shocked by it to be honest," former world number one Murray, who is preparing himself for the season's first grand slam, told reporters, as quoted by Australian publication The Age.

"I'm going to say two things on it just now. The first thing is that I hope that Novak is OK. I know him well, and I've always had a good relationship with him and I hope that he's OK.

"The second thing I'll say on it, is it's really not good for tennis at all, and I don't think it's good for anyone involved."

 

Four of Murray's five defeats in Australian Open finals came to Djokovic, who the Scot has not had contact with.

"[I need to] wait and hear exactly what the situation is before commenting on it further, because again I don't think it's fair because some of it is speculation," Murray said.

"Some stuff has come out that really doesn't look good, either. I want to hear all the facts first before giving all of my thoughts on it."

Djokovic's lawyers, in their appeal document sent to the court, disclosed that the 34-year-old had tested positive for COVID-19 in December, and it was under these grounds that they sought a medical exemption.

Rafael Nadal said this week that Djokovic could have made life easier for himself by getting vaccinated, or disclosing his vaccine status, and Murray echoed those sentiments.

"It's not for [Nadal] to say what the right thing to do is, but to listen to the experts on those subjects, and I feel the same," Murray added.

"I can accept that young healthy athletes, if you contract coronavirus, are probably going to be OK. But I trust what I'm getting told by the scientists and the doctors.

"It's not about listening to what politicians or government are telling me to do, it's more listening to the doctors and the scientists, and the people that really know about that stuff."

Novak Djokovic's court appeal will take place on Monday after Australian Department of Home Affairs lawyers lost a bid to delay the timing of the case.

Home Affairs' lawyers applied to the Federation Circuit Court to re-schedule the case by two days from Monday to Wednesday but the application was dismissed by Judge Anthony Kelly.

Delaying the appeal until Wednesday would have been after Tennis Australia's stated deadline for inclusion in the upcoming Australian Open, due to begin on January 17.

Djokovic and his lawyers filed court documents on Saturday stated that the Serbian was granted a temporary activity visa on November 18, having been detained upon arrival in Melbourne.

The world number one's legal team are battling for him to be freed in order to prepare for and participate in the Australian Open in Melbourne.

Australian Border Force officials cancelled his visa application on Thursday, stating Djokovic had "failed to provide appropriate evidence to meet the entry requirements to Australia".

Djokovic had been granted a medical exemption by organisers of the first grand slam of the year, but his fate now hangs in the balance.

Novak Djokovic tested positive for COVID-19 in December and was later given the go-ahead by Australia's Department of Home Affairs to travel to Melbourne, his lawyers said on Saturday.

Canada will face Spain in their first ATP Cup final after eliminating defending champions Russia in Saturday's semi-final in Sydney. 

Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime beat Russian duo Daniil Medvedev and Roman Safiullin 4-6 7-5 10-7 in the doubles to complete a tense 2-1 victory for Canada.

World number 14 Shapovalov edged Safiullin 6-4 5-7 6-4, but US Open champion Medvedev levelled up with a 6-4 6-0 win against Auger-Aliassime in the other singles match.

That set up a doubles showdown for the right to face Spain, who overcame Poland on Friday, which Canada came from behind to win.

Russia held in the opening set to take the lead, though a break of serve late in the second set for Canada ensured the contest would be decided by a tie-breaker.

Shapovalov and Auger-Aliassime held their nerve at the Ken Rosewall Arena, recovering from 6-5 down to win 10-7.

It marks a remarkable comeback in more ways than one for Canada, who lost their first four matches of the competition.

"Denis helped me and the team to push myself," Auger-Aliassime said in his on-court interview. 

"We had a tough start in the doubles, so to be able to come back in this way, it's really a team effort.

"That's what the ATP Cup is about. You can still win after being one-all and losing a tough singles. It's really about the team effort and we're happy to be through."

Novak Djokovic tested positive for COVID-19 in December and was later given the go-ahead by Australia's Department of Home Affairs to travel to Melbourne, his lawyers said on Saturday.

The men's tennis world number one is being detained at the Park Hotel in Melbourne ahead of a court hearing on Monday that should determine whether he is allowed to stay in Australia.

The Australian Open begins on January 17 and Djokovic's legal team are battling for him to be freed in order to prepare for and participate in the tournament.

Australian Border Force officials cancelled his visa application on Thursday, stating Djokovic had "failed to provide appropriate evidence to meet the entry requirements to Australia".

Djokovic had been granted a medical exemption by organisers of the first grand slam of the year, but his fate now hangs in the balance.

His lawyers filed a detailed submission to the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia on Saturday, in which it was stated that Djokovic was granted a temporary activity visa on November 18.

 

This did not contain any conditions regarding his vaccination status, lawyers for Djokovic said, adding that the Serbian then tested positive for coronavirus, after a PCR check, on December 16. This was confirmed by the Institute of Public Health of Serbia, the 34-year-old's lawyers said.

Subsequently, having recovered from COVID-19, Djokovic was informed he was eligible to play the first grand slam of 2022 by Tennis Australia officials.

According to details filed by his lawyers, Djokovic received confirmation on December 30 from Tennis Australia's chief medical officer that he had been awarded a medical exemption to compete, on the basis he had recently recovered from the virus.

"Mr Djokovic had also received, on 01 January 2022, a document from the Department of Home Affairs in regard to his Australian Travel Declaration," his lawyers said.

This document, according to his representatives, stated that Djokovic was informed "[his] responses indicate[d] that [he met] the requirements for a quarantine-free arrival into Australia where permitted by the jurisdiction of your arrival".

If cleared to leave his hotel and compete in the Australian Open, Djokovic will be seeking a 10th title at Melbourne Park and a 21st grand slam. He currently shares the men's record of 20 major titles with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

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