Serbia's Novak Djokovic
World No.1 Novak Djokovic has skipped the ATP Cup, but he has hinted to his teammates that he is trying to play in year's first slam. Image Credit: AP

Sydney: Novak Djokovic could still play at the Australian Open, a Serbian teammate said Thursday, despite the world number one’s last-minute decision to pull out of the ATP Cup in Sydney.

The 20-time Grand Slam champion withdrew from this week’s teams event days before its start on Saturday, heightening doubts over whether he will defend his Australian Open title.

Djokovic has refused to confirm if he has been inoculated against Covid-19, with all participants at the opening Grand Slam of the year needing to be vaccinated or have a medical exemption.


Dusan Lajovic, who will lead Serbia’s ATP Cup drive in Djokovic’s absence, said his teammate wanted to be in Sydney. “Unfortunately he’s not able to come here, but, you know, he was I think hoping, same as we did, that somehow he will be here. Unfortunately he’s not, and we’ve got to deal with it,” he said.

“I don’t know the official reason. Maybe the ATP knows. He just said that he’s not coming to the ATP and trying to get to the Australian Open.”

Pressed on whether Djokovic would be at Melbourne Park, Lajovic said: “I mean, the decision, he said, ‘I’m not coming, guys,’ to the ATP Cup. We’ll see about the Australian Open.

“He didn’t specify if he’s coming or not but that he’s waiting for a decision.”

It is not clear what that decision is, but if he were to apply for a medical exemption it would be assessed by an independent panel of experts and remain confidential.

However, government officials in Victoria state, which hosts the Australian Open, have been adamant for months that only vaccinated players can play the tournament from January 17-30.

“They’re the rules. Medical exemptions are just that - it’s not a loophole for privileged tennis players,” the state’s Deputy Premier James Merlino said this month.

Pavlyuchenkova tests positive

World No. 11 and French Open 2021 finalist Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova has tested positive for Covid-19, casting doubt on her place in the Australian Open. The 30-year-old Russian confirmed she has the coronavirus and is isolated after arriving in Australia on Tuesday.

“I was fully vaccinated and was preparing for the start of the season in Dubai,” Pavlyuchenkova said on social media on Thursday.

“But we live in a very difficult and unpredictable time. Right now I am in complete isolation in a special hotel, and following all the protocols under the supervision of doctors. Now it’s important to take care of yourself and the health of others. I’ll be back on the court when it’s safe for everyone.”