January 20, 2022, 2:33

    After Australian Open draw delay, Novak Djokovic slated to open title defense against fellow Serbian Miomir Kecmanovic

    After Australian Open draw delay, Novak Djokovic slated to open title defense against fellow Serbian Miomir Kecmanovic

    MELBOURNE, Australia — Novak Djokovic now knows he’ll face fellow Serbian Miomir Kecmanovic in the first round of his Australian Open title defense, if he’s allowed to play.

    Djokovic’s visa status dominated attention until the moment the draw was conducted Thursday to determine the brackets for the men’s and women’s singles draws at the first major tennis tournament of 2022.

    And after it.

    The Australian immigration minister is still considering whether to deport the nine-time and defending Australian Open champion, who is not vaccinated against COVID-19.

    So Djokovic remains in limbo.

    Top-ranked Djokovic had his visa canceled on arrival in Melbourne last week when his vaccination exemption was questioned, but he won a legal battle on procedural grounds that allowed him to stay in the country.

    Immigration Minister Alex Hawke has been considering the matter since a judge reinstated Djokovic’s visa on Monday.

    Expectations of a pending decision were raised Thursday when Prime Minister Scott Morrison called an afternoon news conference after a national Cabinet meeting. Speculation heightened when the tournament draw was postponed by 75 minutes to a time after Morrison’s news conference.

    But the wait continued after both events concluded, with Morrison referring questions on Djokovic to his immigration minister.

    “These are personal ministerial powers able to be exercised by Minister Hawke and I don’t propose to make any further comment at this time,” Morrison said.

    Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley also declined comment after the draw ceremony.

    Djokovic, 34, has been trying to focus his attention on the playing court in the four days since he was released from immigration detention. He held a practice session at Rod Laver Arena, his fourth this week, in the midafternoon.

    If he’s allowed to stay, his bid for a men’s record 21st major title will begin against 78th-ranked Kecmanovic, and could mean a quarterfinal against No. 7-ranked Matteo Berrettini and possibly a semifinal against Rafael Nadal or third-seeded Alexander Zverev, who are both on the bottom side of his half of the draw.

    On the women’s side, top-ranked  Ash Barty and defending champion Naomi Osaka ended up in the same section of the draw, meaning two of the best players in the tournament could meet in a fourth-round match that has the feeling of a final.

    Osaka, who has been ranked as high as No. 1, slid down the list because of her lack of matches in 2021 and is seeded 13th.

    The draw was delayed amid the uncertainty over Djokovic’s visa status. It was scheduled to be held at 3 p.m. local time in Melbourne, but a tournament official told waiting media that the ceremony had been postponed until further notice and declined further comment. It was later rescheduled to 4:15 p.m. local time.

    The Australian Open begins Monday. Djokovic traveled to Australia seeking to win a 21st Grand Slam titles to break the men’s record of 20 he shares with Roger Federer and Nadal.

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    Sourse: abcnews.go.com

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