Novak Djokovic in sad announcement ahead of return to Australia

Novak Djokovic, pictured here with wife Jelena at the ATP Finals.
Novak Djokovic won't feature at the inaugural United Cup ahead of the Australian Open. Image: Getty

Novak Djokovic's return to Australia will come a little later than expected after it was confirmed this week that he will not play in the season-opening United Cup. The Serbian star will be allowed back into the country in January after being granted a visa by the Australian government.

However he will not feature at the new United Cup, with Serbia missing out on qualifying for the mixed gender team event to take place from December 29 to January 8. On Tuesday, officials confirmed the final two countries to take part in the inaugural event will be Bulgaria and Kazakhstan.

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According to reports, Djokovic didn't nominate himself to play in the event, meaning Serbia won't be a part of the $23 million tournament. Instead, Djokovic is believed to be eyeing off the Adelaide International as his starting point for the Australian summer ahead of a tilt at more grand slam glory at the year's first major.

Djokovic revealed last week that he was "very happy" to receive the visa news that allows him to go for a record-extending 10th Australian Open title, before it was confirmed in writing to the world. The Serbian star had been facing a potential three-year ban from the country due to his deportation at the start of 2022.

"Since the cancellation of Mr Djokovic's visa in January 2022, all Covid-19-related Australian border restrictions under the Biosecurity Act 2015 have been removed, including the requirement to provide evidence of COVID-19 vaccination status to enter Australia," Immigration Minister Andrew Giles said in a statement. "Mr Djokovic has subsequently been granted a temporary visa to enter Australia."

The 35-year-old had been facing the prospect of a ban from Australia until 2025, but revealed his delight that the decision has been reversed. "I was very happy to receive the news yesterday," Djokovic said.

Speaking in Turin at the ATP Finals, the Serbian added: "It's a relief, obviously knowing what I and people closest to me in my life have been through this year with what happened in Australia and post-Australia obviously. I could not receive better news for sure - during this tournament as well. Australian Open has been my most successful grand slams. I made some of the best memories there.

"Of course, I want to go back there, I want to play tennis, do what I do best, hopefully have a great Australian summer. I'm always thankful to go through experiences, no matter what the experiences are. I try to be optimistic and positive in life. I look forward to starting the new year in Australia, and we'll see how the next year goes."

Fans had expected Djokovic to feature for Serbia at the United Cup, but were left disappointed by his absence at the event that has replaced the previous ATP Cup.

Nick Kyrgios to face Rafa Nadal at United Cup

Nick Kyrgios is in line for a blockbuster showdown with defending champion Rafa Nadal after Australia was drawn in the same pool as Spain for the inaugural United Cup. Alex de Minaur and Jason Kubler were the other men's singles players named in Australia's eight-strong line-up.

But it will be Kyrgios getting a crack at Nadal after the Wimbledon finalist secured Australia's year-end top ranking when de Minaur was unable to reach the quarter-finals of the Paris Masters. Under United Cup rules, the two nations' No.1 players will clash, with the respective No.2s to feature plus two women's singles match-ups determined on the same basis.

A mixed doubles encounter could potentially decide the five-match ties. Kyrgios could also pair up with old flame Ajla Tomljanovic after the three-times grand slam finalist was named as the No.1 female in the Australian team alongside Zoe Hives, Maddison Inglis and doubles stars John Peers and Sam Stosur.

Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis, pictured here in action at the ATP Finals.
Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis in action at the ATP Finals. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

United Cup officials have also revealed that women's World No.1 Iga Swiatek will be another headline performer at the maiden running of the new summer-opening event. Other notable entries include Stefanos Tsitsipas and Maria Sakkari of Greece, Norway's World No.4 Casper Ruud, Germany's Alexander Zverev and Switzerland's Belinda Bencic and Stan Wawrinka.

Brisbane, Perth and Sydney will each host two groups of three countries competing in a round-robin format. The winners of each group will play off, with the city winners advancing to the United Cup's final four in Sydney from January 6-8. The next best performing team from the group stages will complete the quartet.

with AAP

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