Novak Djokovic is welcome at Australian Open, says tournament director; Russian and Belarusian players can compete in men’s draw
World number one Novak Djokovic will play in Melbourne next month after officials at the Australian Open confirmed he will be granted permission to compete by the competition on the condition he relinquishes his ranking.
The ruling means that the World No 1 will only be able to qualify for the quarter-finals if he wins in the second or third round at the tournament, where he had previously been expected to return.
Tournament director Chris Kewley confirmed Djokovic was granted permission to compete in August, but said the decision was not legally binding and Djokovic had to wait to be given specific evidence before the ruling was finalised.
It is not the first time Djokovic has been granted a wildcard to play in Melbourne. Four years ago when Djokovic returned to the tournament he had been given a wildcard to play alongside Rafael Nadal who withdrew due to illness. Djokovic won the tournament that year and eventually ended up with a career Grand Slam, but lost to Andy Murray in the final.
Djokovic and his team have appealed the decision, with the players arguing that it “runs counter to the basic principle that all players should be paid their market value for the use of their services”.
However, in Melbourne Djokovic said: “We have gone through this and it’s going to be very tough. It’s the first time in my career I’m going to play on a stage where my opponents know what I am going to do, so it’s going to be a challenge.
“I have a lot of respect for the people who work in these tournaments and I respect the people who are organising the tournament and I respect the decisions they’ve given.”
Tournament director Kewley said: “The players that have received wildcards are just doing their jobs. We have a process of ensuring the security and safety of the players and the tennis community is at the core of our tournament.
“We have to make sure the courts are safe and secure. We have a process – we make sure we run all the tests