Absence of Djokovic to echo at Melbourne Park

FILE PHOTO: Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic practices at Melbourne Park before his visa was again cancelled by the Australian government in Melbourne, Australia, January 13, 2022. REUTERS/Loren Elliott/File Photo

MELBOURNE (Reuters) – The absence of Novak Djokovic will be keenly felt at Melbourne Park on Monday as a lucky loser takes the place of a 20-times Grand Slam champion when the first round of the Australian Open gets underway.

Djokovic had been scheduled to play fellow Serb Miomir Kecmanovic in the late match at Rod Laver Arena but the nine-times champion will be nowhere near the centre court after losing his bid to overturn a second visa cancellation.

Seeing Djokovic play after a dramatic week of court challenges and fan protests would have been appointment viewing around the world, not least to see the reception of the crowd in a country where his refusal to vaccinate for COVID-19 has triggered outrage.

Instead, home hero and women’s top seed Ash Barty will take top billing on Monday when she opens her campaign for a first Australian Open title against Ukraine’s Lesia Tsurenko.

Wimbledon champion Barty will appear in the first match of the evening session at Rod Laver Arena, as the order of play stood on Sunday.

Women’s defending champion Naomi Osaka will play unseeded Colombian Camila Osorio in the second match of the day session at Rod Laver Arena, before men’s sixth seed Rafa Nadal takes to the court against American Marcos Giron.

Third seed and Olympic champion Alexander Zverev will meet fellow German Daniel Altmaier in the first evening match at Margaret Court Arena, the second showcourt at Melbourne Park.

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