Novak Djokovic drops Australian Open hint as Andy Murray makes coaching decision

Novak Djokovic celebrates Serbia's WC qualification

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Novak Djokovic put himself on the entry list for the Australian Open after months of speculation over his participation.

The nine-time champion in Melbourne has been a doubt to compete since a vaccine mandate was introduced, as he has previously spoken out against them and ruled out disclosing his vaccination status, but reports now suggest that Djokovic may be looking to apply for a medical exemption to compete without getting jabbed.

Andy Murray split with his long-time coach Jamie Delgado on Friday (December 10), and is currently undergoing a test period with German coach Jan De Witt, as the pair are both set to travel to this week’s Mubadala World Tennis Championship exhibition together to continue their trial.

The International Tennis Federation announced their decision to scrap all their sanctioned tournaments in China last week, as concerns remain over the wellbeing of former doubles No 1 Peng Shuai after she accused the country’s vice premier of sexual assault over a month ago.

And the tennis world lost a legend as four-time Grand Slam champion and former world No 1 Manolo Santana passed away aged 83.

Express Sport takes a look back at the biggest news stories on and off the tennis court from the past week…

Djokovic appears on Australian Open entry list amid medical exemption rumours 

Novak Djokovic has signed up for the Australian Open in Melbourne and ATP Cup in Sydney after months of speculation over the world No 1’s participation.

Tennis Australia boss and Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley confirmed on Novenber 21 that all players competing in the event would have to be fully vaccinated.

The nine-time Aussie Open champion had previously admitted he didn’t know if he was going and, since the vaccine mandate was confirmed, told reporters “we’ll see” and “you’ll know very soon” about his participation.

While Djokovic is yet to confirm his participation, his name has now appeared on the entry lists for both the ATP Cup and Australian Open.

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He can still withdraw from both tournaments before they begin, but there has been talk that the 34-year-old is looking to apply for a medical exemption after Australia’s Herald Sun and 7 News Melbourne reported that the 20-time Grand Slam champion would possibly be applying for an “exemption to enter Australia on medical grounds”, meaning he would be allowed in without needing the jab and would benefit from more freedoms than unvaccinated members of the public.

However, Craig Tiley and Australian government officials including the Prime Minister have shut down the prospect of the world No 1 being allowed an exemption.

“He [Djokovic] will follow the same rules as anyone else would. There are no special rules for tennis players or anyone else,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters on Thursday (December 9).

Meanwhile, Tiley told ABC: “I’ve seen reports this morning. There’s been no medical exemptions that have been granted at this point.

“Everyone goes on the entry list. It’s not a commitment list about exactly who’s in the draw. That comes in several weeks’ time when the actual list and draw gets finalised for the Australian Open.”

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Murray to trial new coach after splitting with mentor of five years

Andy Murray split with his coach of five-and-a-half years on Friday (December 10).

Jamie Delgado joined the 34-year-old’s team during his incredible 2016 season which saw him win a second Wimbledon crown and secure the world No 1 ranking for the first time in his career.

He stood by Murray during his two hip surgeries and years of injury troubles, but will now be joining the team of world No 14 Denis Shapovalov, the Canadian who comfortably defeated Murray in the Wimbledon third round earlier this year.

The former world No 1 is now undergoing a trial period with Jan De Witt, former coach of Gael Monfils, Gilles Simon and Nikoloz Basilashvili.

Murray had already trialled newly retired Johanna Konta’s coach Esteban Carrill during his season-ending tournament in Stockholm last month, but the pair will not be working together in 2022.

He has already started working with the German, who is known for his no-nonsense coaching techniques, and they will both travel to this week’s Mubadala World Tennis Championships exhibition in Abu Dhabi to continue their trial.

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Manolo Santana passes away aged 83

Tennis legend Manolo Santana passed away aged 83. The former Wimbledon champion’s death was announced on Saturday (December 11)

Santana was a trailblazer for Spanish tennis and icon of the game, as the first Spaniard to win one of the four Major titles at the 1961 French Open. He would end his career with four Grand Slam singles titles, having also reached No 1 in the world rankings.

He won two medals at the 1968 Mexico City Olympic Games – a gold in singles and silver in doubles – and after retiring later became Spain’s Davis Cup captain, and tournament director of the Madrid Open.

Players came out in droves to remenber the life of the iconic player, with Rafael Nadal posting a photo of the Spanish pair together, saying: “As I have said many times in the past: thank you so much for what you did for our country and for marking the path of so many. You were always a reference, a friend and a person close to everyone.”

Rod Laver, who famously completed the Calendar Grand Slam twice in his career, also paid tribute to the late tennis great, tweeting: “My thoughts are with good friend Manolo Santana, who has passed away. 

“A clay court maestro, Manolo famously said grass was for cows, but still managed to win Wimbledon in 1966, and inspired generations of Spanish players with his renowned heavy topspin and fighting spirit.”

ITF makes U-turn and scraps China tournaments over Peng Shuai

The International Tennis Federation will not be holding any of their sanctioned tournaments in China next year, amid Peng Shuai’s case.

The former doubles world No 1 has barely been seen since accusing the country’s former vice premier of sexual assault on November 2, making limited appearances in photos and videos posted by China’s state media and in a video call with the president of the International Olympic Committee.

On December 1, the WTA CEO and Chairman announced his decision to immediately suspend all tournaments in China after his two requests – proof that Peng was able to communicate freely without any pressure or coercion, and an investigation into her allegations – were not answered.

The ITF president initially ruled out the possibility of following in the WTA’s footsteps and said: “We don’t want to punish a billion people, so we will continue to run our junior events in the country and our senior events that are there for the time being.”

He has now made a U-turn, and in communication sent to players announced that “No men’s or women’s ITF World Tennis Tour tournaments are scheduled to be played in China in 2022.”

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