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Actual tennis takes place on Day 1 of Australian Open, but Djokovic still hogs the headlines

No. 6-seeded Rafael Nadal of Spain beat Marcos Giron of the United States in his Australian Open opener, then faced questions about Novak Djokovic. EPA-EFE/DAVE HUNT

By Ricky Dimon

Actual tennis was played at Melbourne Park on Monday — even though a whole host of folks did their best to cover up that fact.

Day 1 of the Australian Open saw Rafael Nadal dominate, Sebastian Korda pull off an upset in convincing fashion, Coco Gauff lose, and Aslan Karatsev win despite making a ridiculous 107 unforced errors.

Like it or not, though, the story was still Novak Djokovic.

Djokovic, of course, was deported from Australia on Sunday night after a 10-day saga ended with him losing a final court appeal less than 24 hours before the tournament began. While some players declined to talk about that subject in their post-match interviews on Monday, other players along with many media members made sure to bring it back into the spotlight as much as possible. The French Open also made news by announcing that unvaccinated players will be banned from this year’s event.

ESPN was the main media culprit, led by John McEnroe and Cliff Drysdale. McEnroe came on air yelling at Chris McKendry, Chris Evert, and anyone else who would listen about what he seemed to perceive as injustice done toward Djokovic. McEnroe described the situation as “BS.” Drysdale’s rant was much less predictable. He suggested that the 34-year-old Serb should get a free pass for his recent Covid-related shenanigans because of all the things that he has overcome in his past. Drysdale also said that if Rafael Nadal wins the tournament it would be watered down by the fact that Djokovic didn’t play.

Novak Djokovic is escorted to a private plane during his deportation from Australia on Sunday.

As for his fellow players, Djokovic continued to get support from Nick Kyrios along with the Serbian contingent.

Kyrgios used some interesting grammar in response to an NBA player from Montenegro who had expressed disdain over how the Djokovic situation was handled. Dusan Lajovic held up a GOAT flag after beating Marton Fucsovics in five sets. Miomir Kecmanovic, who was supposed to play against Djokovic but instead defeated lucky loser Salvatore Caruso, also chimed in.

Gael Monfils was among those who had no time for Djokovic-related questions.

“To be honest, I just think about the tournament now,” the Frenchman said in response to the first question of his press conference following a 6-1, 6-1, 6-3 destruction of Federico Coria. “I don’t see any opportunities (in the draw even with Djokovic out). The opportunity is to play the next match after each win. Whatever, I don’t know where he was in the draw, who gets the opportunities, or whatever. I’m just happy to have another opportunity to win another match and maybe go to another third round in the Australian Open.”

Led by Monfils, Nadal, Naomi Osaka, Madison Keys, and others, the tennis–actual tennis–was quite good on Monday.

Just not good enough to make any headlines.

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