‘We’ll see’: Novak Djokovic reticent over whether he will play Australian Open
The world number one, who has previously expressed scepticism about vaccination, replied to a question about the likelihood of his presence in Melbourne with a brief: “We’ll see.”
Pressed further on the subject, Djokovic said: “I haven’t been talking to them. I was just waiting to hear what the news is going to be. Now that I know, we’ll just have to wait and see.”
The 34-year-old spoke out again this week against vaccine mandates, saying: “The freedom of choice is essential for everyone, whether it’s me or somebody else.
“Doesn’t really matter whether it’s vaccination or anything else in life. You should have the freedom to choose, to decide what you want to do. In this particular case, what you want to put in your body.”
Djokovic was speaking after his ongoing quest for a record-equalling sixth Nitto ATP Finals title was ended by a semi-final loss to Alexander Zverev in Turin.
Zverev, a good friend of Djokovic, hopes the reigning champion will be able to play at Melbourne Park but respects the state of Victoria’s right to set its own requirements.
He said: “This is a very tough one because it’s very political. But we are visiting another country. This is not about tennis. This is about the virus that is going on.
“We need to follow the rules and follow the guidelines. I hope he’s able to play. I’m number three in the world so, if he doesn’t play, it’s easier to win the tournament. This is obvious. Also he’s number one in the world so he should be there.
“Hopefully the Australian government will make an exemption or whatever it is that they can do for him to be able to participate there.”
Djokovic, who has not won the ATP Finals since 2015, had breezed through to the last four without dropping a set.
But third seed Zverev, who ended the world number one’s hopes of a Golden Slam by beating him at the Olympics in Tokyo, played a superb match to win 7-6 (4) 4-6 6-3.
On Sunday, the 2018 champion will take on last year’s winner Daniil Medvedev who had a straightforward 6-4 6-2 victory against Norwegian debutant Casper Ruud.
Medvedev defeated Zverev in the group stages in a match that went right to the wire and will be the favourite having won their last five meetings.
Zverev won a high-class first set against Djokovic but the top seed hit top form late in the second to draw level only for a sloppy service game at 1-2 in the decider to cost him.
Djokovic said: “I just had the one very bad game in the third set. I just wasted really the match in that game.”
Joe Salisbury made some British history by becoming the first player from these shores to reach the doubles final at the ATP Finals.
Salisbury and American Rajeev Ram have had another brilliant season, capped by their second grand slam title at the US Open, and they came from a set down to claim a 4-6 7-6 (3) 10-4 victory over top seeds Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic in Turin.
Having let a 7-1 lead slip in the deciding tie-break at the same stage last year against Jurgen Melzer and Edouard Roger-Vasselin, Salisbury and Ram ensured they did not make the same mistake this time.
Salisbury is looking to follow in the footsteps of 2016 singles champion Andy Murray who is the only previous British winner of the event.
Salisbury was unaware of his history-making moment, saying: “It obviously makes it extra special. Hopefully there will be a lot more.
“It’s a big achievement. Obviously really, really proud of it. But I don’t want to be just a Brit getting to the final, I want to be the one winning it. We’re enjoying the win right now, but we’re going to be back to business soon, really focusing on the match tomorrow and getting the title.”
Salisbury and Ram will take on French duo Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut in the final.