Australian Open twist for Ash Barty after Novak Djokovic deported

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Ash Barty and Novak Djokovic, pictured here at the Australian Open.
Ash Barty will take centre stage now that Novak Djokovic is out of the Australian Open. Image: Getty/AAP

The Novak Djokovic fiasco has allowed Ash Barty to well-and-truly fly under the radar heading into the Australian Open.

And that's how the women's World No.1 likes it.

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But with Djokovic now out of the Australian Open and deported from the country, Barty will take centre stage as the grand slam kicks off on Monday.

Such is the saturated coverage of the Djokovic soap opera that continues to hijack the Open, Barty's first-round clash with Ukrainian qualifier Lesia Tsurenko barely rated a mention in the country's major newspapers on Sunday.

The Wimbledon champion will likely never again enter her home grand slam as top seed but with the spotlight firmly elsewhere.

However that will all change when Barty is thrust onto Rod Laver Arena as a hot favourite to break Australia's infamous 44-year Open title drought on Monday night.

Until then, Barty was happy to enjoy a relatively low-key build-up compared to her previous two campaigns as the women's No.1 seed.

"The role hasn't changed. The comfort level is exactly the same because, for me, I'm just being me," Barty said on Sunday.

"That's all I can be. That's all I can ask of myself. It's about going out there and trying to do the best I can each and every match.

"I know I say it a lot. Regardless of the number next to my name, that doesn't change the way we approach it.

"Particularly here in Australia, it's exciting. I get to play in front of incredible fans, my family, which is amazing."

Novak Djokovic and his entourage, pictured here walking through Melbourne airport before departing Australia.
Novak Djokovic and his entourage walk through Melbourne airport before departing Australia. (Photo by MELL CHUN/AFP via Getty Images)

Barty also faced Tsurenko in the first round two years ago when the qualifier was languishing at the same ranking of No.120 in the world.

Despite the gulf in standings, Tsurenko hushed the RLA crowd by taking the opening set before Barty fought back to secure a 5-7 6-1 6-1 victory en route to the semi-finals.

"Yeah, it's a tough one. Always a tough one against a qualifier, particularly someone who has been so successful in the past," Barty said of the one-time world No.23.

"She obviously knows how to win big matches.She just knows how to play in the big moments.

"She knows how to navigate and win matches, navigate through some tough times.

"Having played quallies over the last week with two or three matches, she's used to the conditions.

"For me, it's about still going out there and trying to play my brand of tennis. I look forward to it. We go out there and see how we go."

Ash Barty, pictured here during a practice session ahead of the 2022 Australian Open.
Ash Barty plays a backhand during a practice session ahead of the 2022 Australian Open. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

Ash Barty takes centre stage after Novak Djokovic saga

Many players had grown weary of Djokovic's visa cancellation saga hogging the headlines, with even Djokovic admitting the spotlight on his off-court battle had made him "uncomfortable".

The World No.1 was scheduled to begin his quest for a 10th title at Melbourne Park against fellow Serbian Miomir Kecmanovic on Monday night.

But Italy's Salvatore Caruso, who lost during qualifying and was then put on stand-by in case of injury, will instead take Djokovic's place in that match, which has been shifted to an outdoor court.

Barty returns to Rod Laver Arena as the headline act in prime time, followed by the all-German contest between men's third seed Alexander Zverev and Daniel Altmaier.

"It feels like an eternity since I played here at home," Barty said, having fallen to Czech Karolina Muchova in the quarter-finals at Melbourne Park a year ago.

"It's exciting going into it. I'm very fortunate and grateful that I'm in the draw and I've got a chance just like everyone else."

Meanwhile, women's defending champion Naomi Osaka will take on unseeded Colombian Camila Osorio in the second match of the day session at Rod Laver Arena, before 2009 men's champion Rafael Nadal begins his bid for a record 21st grand slam title against American Marcos Giron.

Australian women's No.2 Ajla Tomljanovic and local men John Millman, Thanasi Kokkinakis, Aleksandar Vukic and James Duckworth are also in singles action on Monday.

with AAP

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