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Djokovic Withdraws From ATP Cup, Leaving Doubts About Australian Open Presence

World number one retires amid speculation about his vaccination status.

Novak Djokovic withdrew from the ATP Cup in Sydney, organizers said Wednesday, amid speculation about whether the world's number one is vaccinated against covid and whether he will defend the Australian Open title.

"The world number one Novak Djokovic has withdrawn from the ATP Cup 2022. The Serbian team will now be led by the world number 33, Dusan Lajovic," organizers of the competition that starts on Saturday said in a statement.

The ATP Cup, a nationwide competition organized by the ATP, marks the season's kick-off on the men's circuit.

Djokovic, 34, still has doubts about his participation in the Australian Open (January 17-30), the Grand Slam that he has won nine times, including the last three editions.

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In case of victory in the 2022 edition, a new title would mean the conquest of his 21st 'great', thus beating the record currently shared with the Spanish Rafael Nadal and the Swiss Roger Federer, all three with 20.

But to be allowed to enter Australia and participate in the tournament, the players, their environment and the members of their team must be vaccinated.

And Novak Djokovic does not want to say if he is vaccinated or not  His father Srdjan had declared in late November on Serbian television that his son would "probably" not go to the Australian Open, denouncing blackmail by the organizers.

The Australian Tennis Federation has made charter flights available to tennis players to allow them to go to Melbourne and Sydney to participate in the preparatory tournaments.

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The latest women's Australian Open champion, Japan's Naomi Osaka, was among those who landed on Tuesday, while Djokovic was not on board.

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Tennis players also had the possibility to choose to travel to Australia with one of the international commercial flights.

Djokovic is not the only tennis player who will not participate in the ATP Cup, due to Covid-19 or injuries, and France will replace Austria in Group B after the loss of Dominic Thiem and Dennis Novak, the organizers announced this Wednesday.

Three tennis players from the Russian team, Andrey Rublev, who contracted the coronavirus, Aslan Karatsev and Evgeny Donskoy, are also out, indicated the ATP Cup, as well as the American Austin Krajicek.

The shadow of the covid hovers over the Australian Open and the tournaments that must be played before.

The presence of Spanish star Rafael Nadal remains in doubt as well, after he tested positive for covid upon his return from an Abu Dhabi exhibition tournament in December.

His rival in that tournament, Denis Shapovalov, a semi-finalist at Wimbledon, also tested positive.

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Three players participating in the same event also tested positive: Swiss Olympic champion Belinda Bencic, British US Open champion Emma Raducanu, and Tunisian Wimbledon quarter-finalist Ons Jabeur.

This same Wednesday, Australian tennis player Nick Kyrgios urged Nadal and Djokovic to participate in the Australian Open, declaring that it would be a "disaster" if the "big three" were low.

Swiss tennis icon Roger Federer had already announced his withdrawal from the Australian Open after a year-long absence due to double surgery on his right knee.

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