NOVAK DJOKOVIC faces an uncertain future in tennis after a chaotic Australian Open fiasco.
With the Australian Open entering its latter stages, attention has shifted somewhat from a Novak Djokovic fiasco which dominated the headlines after the turn of the year. The Serb’s medical vaccine exemption was scrutinised and then tossed aside when Australia’s Immigration Minister Alex Hawke exercised his personal powers to deport the nine-time champion on the basis that it could stir up anti-vaccine sentiment in the country. A host of questions still remain on where the Serb goes from here, and what happens next. Express Sport looks at the biggest stories surrounding Djokovic’s future as uncertainty persists.
Djokovic to return to Melbourne
The Serb was not given the chance to defend his Australian Open title this year, but tournament chief Craig Tiley believes that there is still hope for the future.
Tennis Australia CEO Tiley certainly cannot be criticised for his positive outlook when it comes to the ousted 20-time Grand Slam champion.
He said: “Obviously, he’s got to play out this year, but that [returning in 2023] will be his intention.
“At the end of the day, he’s the number one player in the world and he really loves the Australian Open.”
While Tiley spoke of Djokovic’s ‘love’ for the Australian Open, other reports indicate that the Serb is preparing to take action.
According to The Sun, Djokovic’s lawyers are preparing a lawsuit against the Australian government for ‘ill treatment’.
A hefty sum of £3.2m in damages may be sought after being held in a Melbourne detention centre, which his mother described as ‘torture’.
The total claim also includes £2.3m in prize money, which the Serb would have expected to take home if he had claimed his 10th Australian Open title.
French Open prospects
Djokovic’s Covid-related deportation from Australia raised plenty of questions about his prospects of competing at the French Open, the year’s next scheduled Grand Slam.
The Serb won his second ever title at Roland Garros last year, inflicting Rafael Nadal’s third career defeat at the French Open en route to victory.
And while it seemed as though Djokovic may be denied entry into France due to the requirement of vaccine passports to enter public places, further developments have offered hope.
According to La Gazzetta, a vaccine passport can be obtained by anyone who has recovered from Covid within the last six months.
As the tournament is scheduled to get underway in May, Djokovic’s positive test in December should grant him entry, and subsequently the opportunity to defend his title.
Djokovic’s reluctance to get vaccinated, even as restrictions become commonplace around the world, has raised doubts about his future in tennis.
Former British No 1 and world No 4 Tim Henman claims that it will be ‘very difficult’ for him to continue, with his scope to enter tournaments around the world ‘pretty limited’.
Two-time Australian Open winner Boris Becker concurs, adding that the Serb will be ‘weighing up’ what to do next.
“Genuinely, I don’t know what he will choose,” he told The Daily Mail, “it is becoming much more difficult for unvaccinated people to go about their daily lives, let alone play international tennis tournaments.”
Despite Tiley’s optimism regarding Djokovic’s return to Melbourne next year, the Australian Open chief also confirmed that a post-tournament inquiry is on the cards.
While the on-court action has been superb, the Djokovic saga will no doubt be on the agenda too given that decisions had to be made promptly, and under intense scrutiny from all angles.
“Of course there’s going to be lessons that we can learn but we do that every year,” he said.
“We do a full review after the event which we’ll do again this year. We’ll see what we did well, we’ll see what we could improve as we plan to 2023.”