Novak Djokovic pulls out of ATP Cup amid speculation over vaccination status

Australia World

World number one men’s tennis player Novak Djokovic has pulled out of the Serbian team for the ATP Cup in Sydney, organisers of the event said.

ATP Cup organisers disclosed Djokovic’s withdrawal in a roster update that included France replacing Austria in the 16-country event following the withdrawals of Dominic Thiem and Dennis Novak.

“Serbia remains in the competition and will be led by world number 33, Dusan Lajovic,” event organisers said in a statement.

Fifth-ranked Andrey Rublev of Russia also pulled out, as did teammates Aslan Karatsev and Evgeny Donskoy.

There has been intense speculation over Djokovic’s participation in the event and in the Australian Open, which starts on January 17, with the 34-year-old repeatedly declining to say if he had been inoculated against COVID-19.

The nine-time Australian Open champion is tied with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal for the men’s record of 20 Grand Slam singles titles.

Australian Open organisers have stipulated that all participants must be vaccinated against COVID-19 or have a medical exemption granted by an independent panel of experts.

Tennis Australia chief executive Craig Tiley said earlier in December that a small cohort of players and staff would be allowed into Melbourne Park without being vaccinated after being granted medical exemptions, but no players had yet informed Open officials that they had received an exemption.

Because of privacy protocols, Tiley did not know if Djokovic had requested a medical exemption, nor would anyone ever know unless the nine-times champion revealed so himself.

Tiley said that, if Djokovic fronted up, it meant he had either been jabbed or had been granted an exemption.

“It’s his choice,” Tiley said.

The ATP Cup begins on Saturday.

ABC/wires