SYDNEY (Dispatches) -
Novak Djokovic has pulled out of this week’s ATP Cup in Sydney, organizers said on Wednesday, heightening doubts over whether he will defend his Australian Open title.
There has been intense speculation as to whether he will travel to Australia, having refused to confirm if he has been inoculated against the coronavirus.
“World No.1 Novak Djokovic has withdrawn from the 2022 ATP Cup,” organizers said in a statement ahead of Saturday’s start to the team tournament.
“Team Serbia will now be led by world No.33 Dusan Lajovic.”
Djokovic, the nine-time Australian Open champion, could win a record 21st Grand Slam title if he plays at Melbourne Park next month, but to enter Australia he and members of his entourage have to be vaccinated.
‘No ‘Big Three’ Would Be Disaster for Australian Open’
With Roger Federer already ruled out of the Australian Open it would be a “disaster” if Novak Djokovic and Rafa Nadal do not turn up for the first Grand Slam of the year, Nick Kyrgios said, adding that the sport needs the ‘Big Three’ to continue playing.
Nadal, Federer and world number one Djokovic are tied on a men’s record 20 Grand Slam singles titles but there is a possibility that none of them will be in action at Melbourne Park when the first major of 2022 kicks off on Jan 17.
Federer, 40, has already pulled out after undergoing multiple knee surgeries while Spaniard Nadal has not confirmed his participation as he recovers from COVID-19.
With organizers mandating all players and participants must be vaccinated or have a medical exemption granted by an independent panel of experts, Djokovic has kept everyone guessing by repeatedly declining to say if he has been inoculated against COVID-19.
The Serb has said he is “opposed to vaccination” and Australian Kyrgios, a former world number 13, told Melbourne newspaper The Age that while he did not know what Djokovic’s situation is, tennis needs him on the court.
The Australian Open has been hit by a series of injury pullouts, with major winners Serena Williams, Bianca Andreescu, Stan Wawrinka and Dominic Thiem all missing out.