After the Australian fury, Djokovic starts his season in Dubai | Tennis News

DUBAI: Novak Djokovic’s season, which was derailed in January when he was sent off ahead of the Australian Open in a dispute over a Covid medical exemption, finally kicks off in Dubai on Monday.
“I’m delighted to be back playing on Monday,” Djokovic told media in Dubai last week. “I miss tennis after everything that’s happened.”
The organizers have dubbed the first day of the ATP event ‘Magnificent Monday’ and a few other high-profile participants, Marin Cilic and Andy Murray, will also be in action.
But all eyes will be on Djokovic, the only one of the tournament’s eight seeds who is in action on Monday. He ended the day on center court against Italian teenager Lorenzo Musetti.
Djokovic last played when he beat Cilic on December 3 but couldn’t prevent Croatia from eliminating Serbia in the Davis Cup semi-finals in Madrid to end his 2021 season.
This year his campaign was cut short when he was expelled from Australia following a long dispute over his medical exemption from the country’s Covid vaccination rules.
Djokovic lost the dispute and his chance to win a record 21st Grand Slam title. Instead, Rafael Nadal took the title and sole ownership of the record.
Djokovic can play in Dubai as a coronavirus vaccine is not mandatory to enter the UAE.
The Serb is a five-time winner in Dubai and he finally starts his season with a point to prove and his number one ranking threatened.
“I can’t say things will be the same when I come back to court,” he told Serbian state broadcaster RTS last week. “But there is an additional reason to play better than ever.”
Even if he wins in Dubai, Djokovic could lose the top spot, which he has held since February 2020, to fellow Melbourne runner-up Daniil Medvedev, who is in action this week nearly 15,000km away in Acapulco .
Even if Djokovic defends his status this week, his refusal to get vaccinated could get him in trouble and cost him ranking points, especially with two high-profile tournaments brewing in the United States.
He is on the Indian Wells entry list from March 7-20, although that is currently restricted to vaccinated players. Next is the Miami Open from March 21 to April 3.
“It will depend on the countries where the tournaments will take place, I will be ready and I will want to continue my career,” Djokovic said.
Djokovic and wildcard Musetti have a history, with the 19-year-old winning the Serbian’s opening two sets when they met at Roland Garros last year.
Musetti eventually retired due to injury, with Djokovic leading the last 16 clashes 6-7 (7/9), 6-7 (2/7), 6-1, 6-0, 4-0.
Cilic, a former world number three, will open action on Monday against Czech qualifier Jiri Vesely. Murray is on the court just before Djokovic, against Australian Christopher O’Connell.
The 34-year-old former world number one Murray plays with a metal hip after surgery in 2019 and won just one game after being crushed by Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut in Qatar on February 16.
Bautista Agut is seeded eighth in Dubai.
The second seed, Andrey Rublev, will face Briton Dan Evans on Tuesday. Canadian number three Felix Auger-Aliassime, fresh off his first career title in Rotterdam, has been drawn against Georgian Nikoloz Basilashvili and Italian number four Jannik Sinner will face Spaniard Alejandro Davidovich Fokina.
Last year’s Dubai winner Aslan Karatsev will face American Mackenzie McDonald.


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