Novak Djokovic's crucial decision as Australian Open looms

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·Sports Reporter
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Novak Djokovic has reportedly opted against playing in the ATP Cup in Sydney in the weeks prior to the Australian Open in January next year. (Photo by JOE KLAMAR/AFP via Getty Images)
Novak Djokovic has reportedly opted against playing in the ATP Cup in Sydney in the weeks prior to the Australian Open in January next year. (Photo by JOE KLAMAR/AFP via Getty Images)

Novak Djokovic will not travel to Sydney to compete in the ATP Cup ahead of the Australian Open, reports from Serbia have suggested.

The world No.1 has been named in Serbia's team to compete in the tournament, however Serbian outlet Blic has reported Djokovic is not intending to travel to Sydney.

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Speculation has swirled around whether Djokovic will travel to Australia at all for next month's season opening grand slam at Melbourne Park, as questions about his vaccination status against Covid-19 remain.

Djokovic has not publicly said whether or not he has been vaccinated, only that he considers the decision one of personal choice and a private matter.

A strict mandate for players to be vaccinated in order to play was agreed to between the Victorian State Government and the Australian Open, with organiser Craig Tiley admitting last week that there would be only a handful of visitors among the throng of players, coaches and other staff travelling to Melbourne who would be granted a medical exemption.

Serbia have been drawn in Group A - along with Norway, Chile and Spain - at the ATP Cup, which is scheduled for January 1-9, before the Australian Open begins on January 17.

The Blic report quoted an anonymous member of Djokovic's team confirming he wouldn't play in Sydney.

“It is 99 per cent sure that Novak won’t go to the ATP Cup. He is training here (in Belgrade) but he has decided to give that tournament a miss," the source said. 

Just before Christmas, Tiley reiterated that he was still unsure whether Djokovic would compete at the Australian Open.

The vaccine requirements have prevented Djokovic from confirming whether he will bid for a men's record 21st grand slam title and a 10th Australian Open crown.

“The great thing is that everyone [coming to Australia] is vaccinated,” said Tiley.

“Everyone who is coming in is vaccinated and there will be a small percentage – a very small percentage – that will have a medical exemption.

“So if any player, fan [or] workforce is on site here – you’re either vaccinated or you have a medical exemption that’s approved and you’re on the Australian Immunisation Register.

“That provides us with safety and an extra level of comfort on site.”

Djokovic cloud remains while Milos Raonic withdraws from Australian Open

While fans will likely have to wait until Djokovic makes an appearance at Melbourne Park before being anywhere near certain that he will play, the tournament has been hit with yet another high profile withdrawal.

Canadian Milos Raonic has pulled out of the Australian Open as the former world No.3 continues his recovery from a heel injury, organisers say.

Raonic suffered a thigh injury in March and returned to the tour after a three-month gap. But his 2021 season was cut short due to another heel issue following his first-round loss at the Atlanta Open in July.

Canada's Milos Raonic is the latest high profile player to withdraw from the Australian Open due to injury concerns. (Photo by Casey Sykes/Getty Images)
Canada's Milos Raonic is the latest high profile player to withdraw from the Australian Open due to injury concerns. (Photo by Casey Sykes/Getty Images)

"Milos Raonic has withdrawn from the #AusOpen as he continues his recovery from an Achilles injury," the organisers of the Grand Slam said on Twitter on Saturday.

Raonic, who turns 31 on Monday, reached a career-high world ranking of third in 2016 - the year he reached the finals at Wimbledon and made a run to the semi-finals at Melbourne Park.

The Canadian, who has currently slipped to 70th, is the latest to be ruled out of the Australian Open with Roger Federer, Stan Wawrinka, Jennifer Brady, Karolina Pliskova, Karolina Muchova, Serena Williams and Bianca Andreescu also ruled out with injuries.

With AAP

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