Novak Djokovic is welcome at Australian Open, says tournament director; Russian and Belarusian players can compete in main draw
Djokovic is looking forward to fighting on clay in Australia. (Getty Images)
Novak Djokovic will open up the Australian Open in Melbourne on Friday, two years after his withdrawal was triggered because of stress-related health issues, while defending champion Rafael Nadal will get to play against Andy Murray.
The tournament is also hosting two-time defending champion Stan Wawrinka, who will replace Rafael Nadal, who withdrew because of a knee injury.
In the women’s category, defending champion Simona Halep and new world No. 2 Petra Kvitova, world No. 30 Magdalena Rybarikova, the world No. 4 Agnieszka Radwanska and 2014 French Open champion Garbiñe Muguruza will play.
The tournament director, Patrick Minford, has said Djokovic (32), who has suffered an injury since April, is looking forward to fighting on the hardcourt at the Melbourne Park Club with the rest of the field.
“This is something for him to look forward to. It’s his first grand slam in a long time,” Minford told reporters. “He’s obviously excited to be around his family again. He loves playing here in Perth and Melbourne, and he’s very happy to be welcomed into the tournament.”
Djokovic missed the French Open after withdrawing due to an elbow injury he suffered in late May, but he has since recovered and is playing well on the men’s tour, losing only four games in his latest two matches.
Nadal has been playing well, too, coming into the tournament on a high after his comeback from an 11-month layoff to reach the semifinals of the Australian Open last week. He has two tournaments remaining on his schedule this season.
“As a champion, as a sportsman, he is one of the best, if not the best, male athlete on the planet,” Djokovic said. “It’s my pleasure to have him here as our guest and he will be representing us with his amazing talent.”
“I think I’m very confident for him. I think I’m very comfortable with him