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Djokovic Still in the Australian Open Draw, in Top half with Zverev and Nadal

Novak Djokovic of Serbia is seen in action during a training session at Melbourne Park in Melbourne, Australia, 12 January 2022. EPA-EFE/JAMES ROSS AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND OUT

By Ricky Dimon

The Australian Open draw ceremony was held on Thursday afternoon, albeit more than an hour later than scheduled.

Would Novak Djokovic be in the draw or not? That was the question–at least for many people. In reality, Djokovic was never not going to be in the draw. Even if Australian minister of immigration Alex Hawke had canceled the world No. 1’s visa earlier in the day, Djokovic wouldn’t have immediately withdrawn from the tournament and instead waited for his lawyers to make another appeal.

As it turns out, Hawke did not come to a decision at any point on Thursday.

After an hour and 15-minute delay from 3:00 to 4:15 that may have been due to the Australian Prime Minister’s 3:45 press conference (even though it had nothing to do with Djokovic), the ceremony finally took place at Melbourne Park. The result was an especially tough top half of the bracket–if Djokovic stays in it. Also on that side are No. 3 seed Alexander Zverev and No. 6 Rafael Nadal. All four Wimbledon semifinalist are there, as Djokovic is joined by No. 7 Matteo Berrettini, No. 10 Hubert Hurkacz, and No. 14 Denis Shapovalov. If the seeds hold to form, the top-half quarterfinals would be Djokovic vs. Berrettini and Zverev vs. Nadal.

Novak Djokovic beat Daniil Medvedev in the 2021 AO final before the second-ranked Russian gained revenge winning the rematch in the US Open final. EPA-EFE/CHRISTOPHE PETIT TESSON

In the bottom half, projected quarterfinal contests are Daniil Medvedev vs. Andrey Rublev and Stefanos Tsitsipas vs. Casper Ruud.

The Tsitsipas-Ruud section is especially wide open, in part because Tsitsipas is dealing with an elbow injury and Ruud–although more than capable on hard courts–plays his best tennis on clay. Jannik Sinner, Roberto Bautsita Agut, Taylor Fritz, Grigor Dimitrov, Alex de Minaur, and Andy Murray are among those who will be looking to take advantage of a big opportunity. At the bottom of the bracket, Medvedev could meet Nick Kyrgios in the second round and Botic Van de Zandschulp in the last 32. Van de Zandschulp was the only player to take a set off the second-ranked Russian at the 2021 U.S. Open.

If Djokovic ends up being forced out of the tournament before Monday’s order of play, the draw will be rearranged. Rublev, the No. 5 seed, would assume Djokovic’s spot atop the bracket. No. 17 Gael Monfils would slide into Rublev’s current position, while Alexander Bublik would become the No. 33 seed and get Monfils’ spot. A lucky loser would replace Bublik.

Ricky contributes to10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.