After weeks of speculation Novak Djokovic will play at the Australian Open after officials awarded him a special exemption to participate in the tournament.
There has been doubts over whether the world No.1 would be heading to the first Grand Slam of the season due to their entry requirements. This year all participants must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 unless they qualify for a medical exemption. Djokovic has publicly refused to disclose his vaccination status which has fuelled speculation that he has not had a jab.
In a statement published on Instagram the 20-timer Grand Slam champion confirmed that he has received an ‘exemption permission’ but didn’t specify on which grounds it has been granted. According to tournament director Craig Tiley, there are two medical panels who decide on applications for an exemption. When they make their assessment they are not informed about the name of the player, instead they focus solely on the medical details.
“I’ve spent fantastic quality time with my loved ones over the break and today I’m heading Down Under with an exemption permission. Let’s go 2022!,” Djokovic wrote.
In recent days Djokovic has been training at a tennis academy in Marbella. According to Marca newspaper, he has been at the Puente Romano Tennis Club with coach Marian Vajda, physio Ulisés Badio and his trainer Marco Panichi. It is not known when the Serbian was aware that his exemption application had been approved.
In December Tennis Australia issued an internal document to players outlining the following four grounds in which players will be granted an exception:-
- If a player has a history of anaphylaxis (an allergic reaction) to all approved COVID-19 vaccinations.
- If a player had experienced a ‘serious adverse event’ linked to the first dose of an approved vaccine which has resulted in hospitalization or some significant disability/incapacity.
- They are currently suffering from an acute medical condition
- Within the past six months they have suffered from an inflammatory cardiac illness.
However players who are pregnant, suffering from a chronic underlying medical condition or have a family history of ‘adverse events’ will not be allowed a medical exemption. The same will apply to those who claim preference to another type of vaccine or suffered ‘expected side effects’ from their previous vaccine.
Djokovic’s participation in the Australian Open now means he has a shot of winning a record 21st Grand Slam title which would move him past rivals Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. Nadal is also in the draw but Federer isn’t playing due to injury. He also has the chance to become only the second player in history to win the Melbourne major for a 10th time after Margaret Court.
Novak Djokovic Storms Into Wimbledon Third Round For 16th Time
The top seed dealt with the breezy conditions and his Australian opponent with ease in what was largely a one-sided performance.
Novak Djokovic has sent out a warning to this year’s men’s draw at Wimbledon by producing a clinical win over Thanasi Kokkinakis to reach the third round on Wednesday.
The world No.3 dictated proceedings throughout his 6-1, 6-4, 6-2, triumph over Kokkinakis. A player who is currently 79th in the world that has been hampered by injury issues throughout a large chunk of his tennis career. Djokovic has now won 307 Grand Slam main draw matches and a staggering 1007 at Tour level. The latest performance saw him produce a total of 29 winners against 14 unforced errors
“I’m very happy with my performance today. I thought I started with well, I was very solid from the back of the court,” said Djokovic.
“I tried to make him work a lot around the court and brought a lot of variety into the game.’
“It was not easy to serve because of the wind but from my side overall it was a really high-quality performance and I’m very pleased.”
In what was their first Tour meeting in seven years the reigning champion got off to a dream start against an erratic Kokkinakis. The Australian struggled to control his unforced error count early on which resulted in him getting broken in his opening service game. Meanwhile, Djokovic settled in instantly as he worked his way to a 3-0 advantage with relative ease. A couple games later the double break was sealed with the use of a delicate drop shot which Kokkinakis failed to return over the net. He went on to close the set out yet another carefully placed drop shot.
Contending with strong gusts of wind, as well as Kokkinakis’ speedy serve, Djokovic broke once again early in the second frame with a winning volley at the net. Despite glimmers of impressive shot-making from his opponent, it failed to materialize into any momentum as the Serbian eased to a two-set lead. Down 3-5 Kokkinakis valiantly saved four set points to hold serve. However, Djokovic proceeded to seal the two-set lead in the following game.
Djokovic’s relentless hitting overwhelmed his opponent who looked growingly lost on the court. The start of set three saw a 12-minute Kokkinakis service game where the Australian buckled once again whilst under intense pressure. Strolling to a game from victory, Djokovic closed out the match with a serve out wide that Kokkinakis returned out.
It is the 16th time in Djokovic’s career he has reached the last 32 at SW19 and his 13th in a row. Only Jimmy Conors has achieved a longer run of 14 between 1972-1985. In total, he has won 81 matches at Wimbledon which is the third-highest tally for a male player in history.
“I’m quite pleased with the way I have raised my level within two days,” said Djokovic who defeated Kwon Soon-woo in the first round.
“Hopefully I can keep that trajectory and keep getting better as the tournament progresses.”
Djokovic will play compatriot Miomir Kecmanović in the third round. He leads their head-to-head 2-0.
(EXCLUSIVE) Ricardas Berankis’ Coach On Wimbledon Showdown With Rafael Nadal
Dirk Hordorff speaks to UbiTennis about the world No.106 and his chances against the second seed.
Ricardas Berankis is no stranger to Wimbledon as he marks the 12th anniversary of his first-ever main draw win at the tournament after coming through three rounds of qualifying.
A stand-out player in his younger years, the Lithuanian topped the world junior rankings and won the US Open boys title back in 2007 when he defeated Jerzy Janowicz in the final. Transitioning to the pro level was never straightforward for Berankis who is now 32-year-old. Nevertheless, he has made his impression on the Tour with runs to two ATP Tour finals in 2012 (Los Angeles) and 2017 (Moscow). He also won the 2015 US Men’s Clay Court doubles title in Houston alongside Teymuraz Gabashvili.
Today Berankis is ranked 106th in the world, which is 56 places below his career-high. His best performance on the ATP Tour so far this season was in Abu Dubai when he came through qualifying to reach the quarter-finals before losing to Denis Shapovalov. He also reached the final of a Challenger event in Lille.
At Wimbledon this year he started his campaign with a straight-sets win over former semifinalist Sam Querrey. Making it only the fourth time in his career he has won a main draw match at the tournament. His reward is a showdown on Thursday with the formidable Rafael Nadal who is seeking a historic 23rd major title and his third in a row. Nadal defeated Francisco Cerundolo in his opening match.
So can Berankis trouble Nadal on the grass?
The best person to ask is Germany’s Dirk Hordorff who coaches Berankis. The veteran coach has also previously collaborated with the likes of Rainer Schuettler, Lars Burgsmüller, Yen-Hsun Lu, Kristian Pless, Sergiy Stakhovsky, and Vasek Pospisil.
During an email exchange with UbiTennis, Hordorff shared his thoughts about Berankis’ upcoming clash with Nadal.
UBITENNIS: It wasn’t until Melbourne this year that Ricardas played Nadal on the Tour for the first time. He lost the match 6-2, 7-5. What did his team learn from that experience?
HIRDORFF: I was not in Melbourne, but I coached unsuccessfully in a lot of matches against Rafa. He is next to Novak (Djokovic) over so many years as a true champion and a great person outside the court. You learn every match against him and Ricardas is ready for this match.
UBITENNIS: When it comes to playing a member of the Big Three, how do you as a coach go about dealing with Berankis’ mentality?
HIRDORFF: Ricardas played a good first round against Sam Querrey. Nevertheless, to play Rafa is a different issue. You need to concentrate on your abilities and not worry about history.
UBITENNIS: Nadal was sternly tested during his opening match. Does this in any way give a confidence boost towards Berankis or do you think it is irrelevant?
HIRDORFF: Every match starts at zero. What Rafa played yesterday doesn’t affect Ricardas’ match. Anyway, Rafa won his first round quite solidly against a good upcoming player.
UBITENNIS: Whilst the odds might be against Ricardas, it isn’t impossible that he could defeat Nadal. What will the key areas be for him to focus on during their match? (e.g. return position, use of slice etc).
HIRDORFF: Ricardas needs to focus on his abilities and take his fine form from the first round in this match. Rafa is a complete player, so you need to perform well in all aspects of the game.
UBITENNIS: What is the most difficult thing about playing Nadal on the tour?
HORDORFF: He is a complete player with a lot of special strengths. Strong serve, good backhand, fast, perfect coordinate and no weak parts in his game.
UBITENNIS: Ricardas might be 32 but he has shown some good results on the Tour (runner-up at a Challenger event in Lille and QF in Dubai). Given the trend of players playing later into their careers, is his best yet to come?
HIRDORFF: Ricardas had to deal with a lot of health problems. I am sure that the best part of his career is yet to come for him.
Rafael Nadal Survives Scare In Wimbledon Opener
Bidding to win his third slam in a row, the Spaniard experienced a tougher test than he expected.
Rafael Nadal’s bid for a first Wimbledon title in over a decade has got off to a shaky start after he battled his way past Argentina’s Francisco Cerundolo in the first round.
Nadal was unable to tame the world No.41 throughout his rollercoaster 6-4, 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, victory which is his 306th in the main draw of a Grand Slam. Cerundolo exceeded expectations by playing some inspired tennis for a player who has only ever won one Tour-level match on the grass and had never won a main draw match at a major.
“All the credit to Fran, I think he started to play great and he was a very tough opponent,” said Nadal.
It has been three years since I last played on this amazing surface and I’m happy to be back. For me, it’s always amazing to play on their court (Center Court) and I can’t thank the crowd enough for their support.
The showdown was the first real test for the Spaniard since his historic triumph at the French Open which he won for a record 14th time. Since then, he hasn’t played any ATP grass-court events leading up to Wimbledon. Although he did take part in an exhibition event at the Hurlingham Club. Furthermore, he had undergone a new medical procedure in a bid to solve the pain caused by his long-term foot condition.
“It’s not the surface we play very often, especially in my case due to different reasons. For the last three years, I haven’t stepped onto a grass court so it always takes a while,” the 22-time Grand Slam winner commented.
“Today has been an important test, especially at the start of the tournament and the difficult circumstances I arrived in.“
It was by no means a vintage performance from the former world No.1 who struggled behind his second serve by winning just 43% of those points. Furthermore, he hit a total of 23 winners against 41 unforced errors. At one stage he was facing the prospect of going into a fifth set after falling behind 2-4 in the fourth frame before upping his intensity to claim four games in a row and clinch the match.
“It’s obvious when you play well in Roland Garros there is not much time between (that and Wimbledon). I used to remember the beautiful days when I used to win Roland Garros and then play on grass at Queen’s the next day but my body doesn’t allow me to do this anymore so I have to take some days off,” he admits.
“The most important thing for me is that I am at Wimbledon 2022 and I won my first match.”
Nadal will play Ricardas Berankis in the second round.
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