Novak Djokovic will skip ATP Cup as Serbians Australian Open status still unknown

Novak Djokovic celebrates Serbia's WC qualification

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Novak Djokovic has withdrawn from next week’s ATP Cup – prompting more speculation over his Australian Open participation. Djokovic, 34, led Serbia to glory in the competition two years ago and participated in 2021 as well, and his apparent commitment to playing again was seen as an indication he was likely to then defend his title in Melbourne.

The subject of Djokovic’s place at the first Grand Slam of 2022 has become a prolonged saga after organisers announced it would be mandatory for players to be fully vaccinated against Covid in order to take part.

While the move has been welcomed in some quarters, the likes of Daniil Medvedev have joined Djokovic in voicing their dissaproval of the stance, while five-time Grand Slam doubles champion Pierre-Hugues Herbert has since ruled himself out of the tournament as he’s yet to be vaccinated.

The Serbian has frequently refused to disclose his own vaccination status, which has led to widespread assumption that he too has declined to be jabbed.

His father, Srdjan Djokovic, has hit out over the issue, accusing organisers of ‘blackmailing’ his son and telling reporters he [Novak] was unlikely to play in Melbourne.

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However, fans were given fresh hope of potentially seeing the star win a record-breaking 21st Slam title when he was named in his country’s team for the ATP Cup in Sydney, which starts this Saturday, January 1.

Australian tennis pundit Todd Woodbridge was quoted as saying: “He had the choice to enter or not enter so he’s put his name on the entry list and that means you’ve got to believe that he’s coming all the way through the summer.”

Now though, Blic reporter Jelena Medic has revealed that he will be skipping that competition, although will continue to practice ahead of the Open, a tournament he’s won nine times.

A tweet from @ozmo_sasa read: “Per Jelena Medic, Novak Djokovic is not playing in the ATP Cup.”

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The post quoted a source close to the Serbia saying: “Novak is not going to ATP Cup. He is practicing, but he’s decided to skip that competition.” He then later tweeted, saying: “not going to ATP Cup 99%.”

Djokovic has long courted controversy with his views of Covid, and when ATP tour events were first halted in 2020, opted to rebel and set up the Adria Tour, a series of charity exhibition games where players socialised together afterwards without any regulations on social distancing.

However, the initiative backfired and the tournament was cancelled midway through after several players, including Djokovic himself, tested positive for Covid.

He later had to apologise for organising the event, saying he believed it had met all health protocols.

Should he make it to the Australian Open, Djokovic will be firm favourite to land the title for the fourth successive season.

Currently still tied with Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer on 20 Slam wins, he missed the chance to make history at September’s US Open after reaching the final at Flushing Meadows.

He was surprisingly beaten in straight sets though by Medvedev, although did bounce back to win the Paris Masters.

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