Australian Open draw delayed ‘until further notice’ amid Novak Djokovic visa row

Djokovic on court in Melbourne on Thursday while he awaits the decision on his visa - AP
Djokovic on court in Melbourne on Thursday while he awaits the decision on his visa – AP

The draw for the Australian Open has been delayed until further notice, officials said on Thursday, amid a row over the participation of Novak Djokovic.

Organisers of the grand slam tournament, one of the showpiece events of the tennis calendar, were due to make the draw at 3pm in Melbourne (4am GMT) but told reporters a few minutes after the draw was due that it had been pushed back.

It comes amid confusion over the place of Djokovic, the world No 1 men’s player, who is waiting to find out if the Australian Government will revoke his visa to play at the tournament in a dispute over his Covid vaccine exemption.

Djokovic arrived in Melbourne last week but was held in an immigration detention centre after officials cancelled his visa.

The cancellation was quashed at an appeal hearing on Tuesday but Australia’s immigration minister is reviewing Djokovic’s case and could yet order his deportation.

The issue of Djokovic’s visa has cast a shadow over the Australian Open, which is due to begin on Monday.

Under normal circumstances, Djokovic would be seeded No 1 for the men’s singles draw but in lieu of a final decision on his visa status, organisers were forcd into an impossible position: hold the draw without Djokovic, and then add him back in if his visa is approved, or make the awkward choice to draw a player who could be kicked out of the country by the federal government.

Tennis Australia gave Djokovic a medical exemption to play at the tournament, despite the Serb admitting he was not vaccinated against Covid, a move that has been labelled hypocritical by other players and the media given that most players flying in to Australia were required to be vaccinated.

Alex Hawke, Australia’s immigration minister, is considering using discretionary powers to revoke Djokovic’s visa, which could wreck his bid for a record 21st major tennis title and tenth in Melbourne.

The decision, which is expected on Thursday, follows an investigation into Djokovic’s Covid quarantine breach, false declarations in his travel documents, and questions about his positive test.