December 30, 2021
SYDNEY (Reuters) – Novak Djokovic did not tell his Serbian team mates why he was pulling out of the ATP Cup team event, said compatriot Dusan Lajovic on Thursday, adding that he is unsure if the world number one will travel to Melbourne for the Australian Open.
Speculation has been rife over Djokovic’s participation in the first major of 2022, with the 34-year-old, who is opposed to COVID-19 vaccinations, repeatedly declining to say if he has been inoculated.
Organisers of the Australian Open, which starts on Jan. 17, have stipulated that all participants must be vaccinated or have a medical exemption granted by an independent panel of experts.
The Serb’s last minute withdrawal from the ATP Cup in Sydney, which starts on Saturday, has fuelled speculation he may also skip the hardcourt major at Melbourne Park, where he has won a record nine titles including the last three.
“I don’t know the official reason. Maybe the ATP knows,” the 33rd-ranked Lajovic, who will lead Serbia’s campaign at the ATP Cup in Djokovic’s absence, told reporters.
“I mean, the decision, he said, ‘I’m not coming, guys, to the ATP Cup. We’ll see about the Australian Open’. He didn’t specify if he’s coming or not but that he’s waiting for decision.”
World number four Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece said Djokovic’s absence was a big blow for the $10 million ATP Cup.
“If he thinks he’s not ready to play here for whatever reason, it’s his choice,” said the 23-year-old, who lost to Djokovic in this year’s French Open final.
“I think most of the players respect his choice. He has the freedom to choose. The rules are rules, and the rules are established for a certain purpose and the reason.
“So there are certain parameters that have to be followed in order to make certain things happen. So if some players decide not to follow them, it’s their choice. I wouldn’t say it’s right or wrong here.”
(Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly in Mumbai; Editing by Peter Rutherford)