Deferred draw for the tournament includes top-ranked male player who can still have his visa canceled for the second time.
The world’s top-ranked men’s tennis player Novak Djokovic has been included in the Australian Open’s official draw, although there is uncertainty as to whether the government will cancel his visa for a second time.
Australia’s immigration minister Alex Hawke is considering exercising his discretionary powers to revoke Djokovic’s visa over concerns over the tennis player’s medical release of Australia’s COVID-19 vaccination requirements.
The draw took place on Thursday at 16:15 Melbourne time (05:15 GMT).
The original draw was scheduled an hour and 15 minutes earlier, but a few minutes after it was supposed to start, an announcement was made that it had been postponed until further notice.
Djokovic, who trained at the Rod Laver Arena earlier Thursday, pulled unseeded fellow Serb Miomir Kecmanovic for his opening round match, which is expected to be played Monday or Tuesday.
Rafael Nadal was placed in the same half, meaning he could face Djokovic in the semi-finals.
Djokovic, a vaccine skeptic, sparked widespread outrage in Australia last week when he announced he was on his way to Melbourne for the Australian Open with a medical exemption from visitors’ requirements to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
Upon his arrival, Australian Border Patrol officials decided his release was invalid and he was detained for several days with asylum seekers at an immigration detention hotel.
Monday, a court allowed him to stay on the grounds that officials were “unreasonable” in the way they handled his interview in a seven-hour process in the middle of the night.
The Australian Government, which has received strong support at home for his stern stance on border security before and during the pandemic, must now decide whether he will let Djokovic stay and bid for a record 21st major title.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Thursday declined to comment on Djokovic’s visa.
Djokovic’s case was not helped by a error in his entry statement, where the box indicating that he had not traveled abroad in the two weeks before his departure was marked.
In fact, he went from Serbia to Spain. Djokovic, 34, attributed the mistake to his agent and admitted he should also have rescheduled an interview and photo shoot for a French newspaper in December. while infected with COVID-19.
Supporters, including many Serbian Australians, loudly supported him when he was detained, people against vaccinations saw him as a hero and his family portrayed him as a champion of individual rights.
But Djokovic could face hostility from the crowd as and when he steps out on the track.
There is widespread anger over the saga among Australians, who have a 90 per cent vaccination rate among adults and are struggling a wave of the Omicron variant after enduring some of the world’s longest-running restrictions aimed at combating the pandemic.
“I do not like his arrogance,” Melbourne resident Teyhan Ismain said on Wednesday. “It seems that he also told a few fibs. So I think he should probably go back. “
There may also be resentment in the locker room, where all but one of the top 100 male players are vaccinated.
Tennis star Martina Navratilova told Australian television Djokovic should “suck” and return home.
“The bottom line is, sometimes your personal beliefs have to be trumped by what’s good for the greater benefit, for those around you, for your peers,” she told Seven’s Sunrise program. “You have two choices, get vaccinated or just not going to play.”