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No vax, no worries: Djokovic set to fly to Melbourne in search of record tenth Open

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Roar Rookie
4th January, 2022
20

In a world where one in two people have taken the first shot of the COVID vaccine, and in a country where 95 per cent of people have taken a first dose, Serbian tennis extraordinaire Novak Djokovic is set to enter Rod Laver Arena with an amazing fact: he will likely be the only person in a 10,000-person arena who is unvaccinated.

Djokovic, 34, recently pulled out of the ATP Cup in Sydney, the season-launching tournament, which kicked off om New Years Eve, for unknown reasons. Practicing in Belgrade with Australian Open balls, serious questions were raised as to whether the 20-time grand slam champion would contest this year’s Australian Open.

Fresh off the back off a strong finish to 2021, winning the Paris Masters in Bercy, and making the semi-finals of the Nitto ATP Finals in Turin, Djokovic will be entering this grand slam with everything on the line. If he wins, he becomes the outright leader in all-time men’s majors, a record which Roger Federer has held every day since June 2009.

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It is incredible the adversity that Novak has faced: all of his past three Australian Open titles have come under extreme adversity. In 2020, the once in in lifetime Australian bushfires were set to cancel the Open, with players passing out due to playing in smoke. There was limited visibility, yet Novak won that campaign eventually, defeating Dominic Thiem in the final in five sets.

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The following year, all Open players underwent the unprecedented measure of having to quarantine for 14 days prior to the tournament. A raft of players came out of quarantine with a serious range of injuries.

Novak won that grand slam with a 2.5mm abdominal tear. Now in 2022, Novak will be playing in Rod Laver Arena against all odds. He will be the only unvaccinated player in a full stadium, which will be one of the more unique circumstances he has experienced. He was granted a medical exemption by two medical panels.

It almost seems like every year, Novak is having to play and win the Australian Open under harder and harder circumstances. Bushfires, injury, coronavirus.

One thing is certain: the Serb is the still the man to beat, one global pandemic on. Yes, the next gen – led by 24-year-old Alexander Zverev and 23-year-old Stefanos Tsitsipas – are biting at his heels, but the pair will have to put up an almighty effort to dethrone the King of the Hardcourt.

The draw will be released in mid-January.

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