AUSTRALIAN OPEN: No Djokovic; Nadal, Barty in action Monday
MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — A glance at the Australian Open which begins Monday:
There are separate day and night sessions with the featured matches played at the main 15,000-seat Rod Laver Arena and the 7,500-seat Margaret Court Arena. The women’s singles final is Jan. 29 and the men’s singles final is Jan. 30; both are scheduled to begin at about 7:30 p.m. local time in Melbourne (3:30 a.m. EST in the U.S.).
With COVID-19 cases increasing by the tens of thousands each day in Melbourne and the rest of Victoria, state government officials late last week placed a cap of 50% attendance, and all fans must be double vaccinated and show proof. However, fans who have already bought tickets will have those honored, regardless of any capacity restrictions. But all future sales of tickets will be kept to a maximum of 50%.
LOOKAHEAD TO MONDAY
With Novak Djokovic out of the tournament due to his visa cancellation, sixth-seeded Rafael Nadal will begin his quest for a record 21st Grand Slam singles trophy when he takes on Marcos Giron. No. 3-seeded Alexander Zverev plays Daniel Altmaier. Top-seeded Ash Barty plays her first-round match against Lesia Tsurenko and defending champion Naomi Osaka is also in action.
Partly cloudy skies and a high temperature of 22 Celsius (72 Fahrenheit).
A saga that monopolized global tennis attention as it unfolded over 11 days finally came to a head on the very eve of the Australian Open when three Federal Court judges unanimously upheld a decision made by Immigration Minister Alex Hawke to cancel top-ranked Novak Djokovic’s visa on public interest grounds because he is not vaccinated for COVID-19. Sunday’s ruling came six days after the 20-time major winner won his first court battle to have his visa reinstated after his exemption from the country’s strict vaccination regulations was rejected at the border. It likely means that Djokovic will remain in detention in Melbourne until he is deported.
Djokovic is hardly the only star of the sport who won’t be at Melbourne Park over the next two weeks. Six-time Australian Open champion Roger Federer is out as he continues his long recovery from right knee surgery. Dominic Thiem, who lost to Djokovic in the 2020 final, is out with a right wrist injury. Former champion Stan Wawrinka is out following foot surgery and Milos Raonic will miss the Australian Open for the first time since 2011 because of an Achilles injury. On the women’s side, the 2022 Australian Open will be the first since 1997 that the tournament will not include either of the Williams sisters. Serena is out with a hamstring injury and Venus hasn’t played since August due to a leg injury. Other absentees include 2021 finalist Jennifer Brady, who has a left foot injury, Karolina Pliskova (right hand injury) and 2019 U.S. Open champion Bianca Andreescu, who said she would be taking time away from the sport to address mental health concerns.
KEY STATISTIC (1)
1978 — The last time an Australian woman won the Australian Open singles title (Chris O’Neill). Two-time major champion Barty wants to end that streak, although she’ll possibly meet defending champion Naomi Osaka in the fourth round. Barty is coming off a win in the Adelaide International this month, beating Coco Gauff, 2020 Australian Open champion Sofin Kenin and 2020 French Open winner Iga Swiatek en route to her 14th WTA title.
KEY STATISTIC (2)
2 — Nadal is bidding to become the second man in the Open Era — and only the fourth man — to win each of the four Grand Slam singles titles twice, after Djokovic completed the double by winning his second title at Roland Garros in 2021. Australians Roy Emerson and Rod Laver are the only other players to have won each Grand Slam on two or more occasions. (While Laver completed the feat in 1969, some of the titles were won before the start of the Open Era in 1968.)
Total: 75 million Australian dollars ($54.6 million). Singles winners each take home 4.4 million Australian dollars (about $3.15 million.)
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