Novak Djokovic celebrates Serbia's WC qualification
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Novak Djokovic has been named in Serbia’s squad for January’s ATP Cup, taking place in Sydney. The world No 1 has been a big doubt to compete in Australia after a vaccine mandate was introduced for tournaments like the Australian Open. He now could compete in the season-opening Grand Slam after putting his name down for the team tournament taking place just two weeks before.
Djokovic’s Australian Open chances have been in doubt for several months, after government officials pushed to make vaccination mandatory for all players.
The nine-time champion himself had previously admitted he didn’t know “if [he] was going” to Melbourne to try and win a record 21st Major title, as he refuses to disclose his vaccination status.
Although the Serb has remained tight-lipped over his decision, he admitted it would come “very soon” when asked at the Davis Cup Finals last Friday, two weeks after Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley confirmed a vaccine mandate for the Grand Slam.
“You will be informed. I know what you want. I’m not going to give you an answer tonight. I know what you want to ask me,” Djokovic told reporters after Serbia crashed out to Croatia in the semi-final.
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“But you will be informed. That’s all I can tell you. I cannot give you any date. Obviously Australia is around the corner, so you will know very soon.”
While his place at the Australian Open is yet to be confirmed, the world No 1 is set to officially compete Down Under as he has been named in Serbia’s five-man team for the ATP Cup, a team event being held in Sydney from January 1, in the lead up to the first Major of 2022.
His place in the Australian team tournament has been confirmed just days after his father Srdjan Djokovic told Serbian TV Prva that his son “probably won’t” compete at the Australian Open after claiming he was being “blackmailed” to disclose his vaccination status.
While the world No 1 has appeared in the official draw for the ATP Cup, he can still pull out of the tournament which is now less than four weeks away.
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Nations qualify for the ATP Cup based on their top player’s ranking, making Serbia the No 1 team at the event thanks to Djokovic’s ranking, but they would now get to keep their place in the competition even if the 20-time Grand Slam champion withdrew.
Team Serbia has been drawn in the same group as Team Spain, where Rafael Nadal is noticeably missing from the five-man squad.
At the inaugural ATP Cup in 2020, Serbia defeated Spain 2-1 in the final, with Djokovic and Nadal leading their respective teams as the top-ranked players in their home nations.
The Spaniard is set to make his comeback in Australia after ending his 2021 season early with a left foot injury.
He will take to the court at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship exhibition in Abu Dhabi next week before heading to Australia for the first Major of 2022, but has not put himself in Spain’s team for the team lead-up event.
Also missing from the draw is Andy Murray, who is skipping his second successive team tournament.
The three-time Grand Slam champion did not join Great Britain at last week’s Davis Cup Finals, wanting to give himself a longer off-season to rest and begin training instead of playing into December.
Instead, recent Indian Wells champion and world No 12 Cameron Norrie leads the charge in Sydney, with all but one player from the recent Davis Cup Finals returning for the ATP Cup.
Norrie will once again be joined by Dan Evans, Liam Broady and Joe Salisbury to represent Great Britain, while Jamie Murray is joining as the second doubles player, replacing Neal Skupski who was part of the squad making it to the quarter-finals of the Davis Cup last week.
GB have been drawn in Group C alongside Germany, Canada and USA.
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