Serbian player not sure of Novak Djokovic’s Australian Open plans

Serbia's Novak Djokovic returns the ball to Croatia's Marin Cilic during their Davis Cup tennis semi-final match at Madrid Arena in Madrid, Spain, Friday, Dec. 3, 2021 (Bernat Armangue/AP).

SYDNEY — Serbian tennis player Dusan Lajovic says he’s not sure whether Novak Djokovic will play the Australian Open and he and other teammates don’t know the reason why Djokovic pulled out of the ATP Cup.

Djokovic would be bidding for a men’s-record 21st Grand Slam title and a 10th Australian Open crown at Melbourne Park beginning Jan. 17.

The 34-year-old Djokovic is on the entry list but has yet to commit to the Australian Open following the COVID-19 vaccination mandate agreed to by Tennis Australia and the Victorian (state) Department of Health.

Djokovic has repeatedly refused to disclose whether or not he is vaccinated, citing privacy concerns. All spectators, staff, and players at the Australian Open must be double-vaccinated or have a medical exemption.

Lajovic, the late call-up to replace the Djokovic, said he and his team were unsure of the No. 1-ranked player’s participation in Melbourne.

“He kept in touch with all of us and it was a last-minute decision, the Australian Open is still uncertain, I don’t know the information,” Lajovic said Thursday. “I think that will come in the next couple of days or whenever is the deadline. We don’t know right now, but hopefully, he’ll be there and be able to play the Grand Slam.”

Lajovic said Djokovic had not disclosed his reasons for skipping Serbia’s defense of the ATP Cup.

“He said I’m not coming to the ATP Cup, we’ll see about the Australian Open,” Lajovic said. “He didn’t specify if he’s coming or not, (but) that he’s waiting for a decision.”

Roger Federer has already confirmed he won’t play in Melbourne due to continuing recovery from right knee surgery. Rafael Nadal, who along with Federer and Djokovic has 20 Grand Slam singles titles, is recovering from COVID-19 and said he still hopes to play the Australian Open.

The 16-team ATP Cup begins Saturday at two Sydney stadiums.

ATP Cup organizers disclosed Djokovic’s withdrawal in a roster update that included France replacing Austria in the event following the withdrawals of Dominic Thiem and Dennis Novak.

Fifth-ranked Andrey Rublev of Russia also pulled out, as did teammates Aslan Karatsev and Evgeny Donskoy.

Serbia plays Norway on Saturday. Also, Chile plays Spain, Argentina takes on Georgia and Greece plays Poland.

The other eight teams begin play Sunday: Russia vs. France, Italy vs. Australia, Canada vs. the United States, and Germany vs. Britain.

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