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Djokovic headlines Dubai draw along with Rublev, Auger-Aliassime, and Bautista Agut

World No. 1 Novak Djokovic makes his 2022 debut in Dubai next week. EPA-EFE/YOAN VALAT

By Ricky Dimon

More than a month and a half into the season, Novak Djokovic will finally make his 2022 debut.

Djokovic skipped the ATP Cup and was then infamously deported out of Australia because of a canceled visa, thus missing the Australian Open. There is no Covid-19 vaccination requirement in Dubai, however, so the 34-year-old–who is the only unvaccinated player in the top 100–can play the upcoming Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.

“I’m excited to go out on the tennis court next Monday,” said Djokovic, who indicated during a BBC interview earlier this week that he is prepared to miss upcoming Grand Slams if being vaccinated is a requirement. “I miss tennis honestly after everything that has happened.”

The world No. 1 is already in Dubai, where the WTA took place this week before the men take center stage starting on Monday. He has made several public appearances relating to the Novak Djokovic Foundation in addition to practicing at the tennis center.

Rotterdam champion Felix Auger-Aliassime joins Novak Djokovic in the Dubai draw. EPA-EFE/JASON O’BRIEN

Up first for Djokovic is Lorenzo Musetti, whom the Serb defeated from two sets down during fourth-round action at last year’s French Open. In round two the top seed could face Alex de Minaur, who earlier this week was reported to be under investigation for falsifying his vaccination status. The Aussie swiftly denied that report.

Djokovic is 41-6 lifetime in Dubai with five titles, including in his most recent appearance two years ago (saved three match points against Gael Monfils in the semis before beating Stefanos Tsitsipas in the final).

The 20-time major champion is joined in a strong field by Andrey Rublev, Felix Auger-Aliassime, Jannik Sinner, and Roberto Bautista Agut. Rublev currently finds himself in the Marseille title match, while Auger-Aliassime is in the semis of that tournament. The 21-year-old Canadian finally lifted an ATP winner’s trophy for the first time in his career last week in Rotterdam. Bautista Agut beat Nikoloz Basilashvili in the Doha final on Saturday.

Auger-Aliassime will meet Basilashvili in the Dubai opening round. The world No. 9 could face Djokovic in the semis.

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