Djokovic in draw as decision looms

Nvak Djokovic practises in Melbourne before the Australian Open
Novak Djokovic practised again at Melbourne Park on Thursday, shortly before the draws were made

Novak Djokovic remains in the Australian Open draw as the decision over whether the defending champion can stay in the country drags on.

The nine-time champion has been drawn against fellow Serb Miomir Kecmanovic.

Britain’s US Open champion Emma Raducanu, seeded 17th, faces American world number 68 Sloane Stephens, the 2017 champion at the New York major.

The Australian Open is the first Grand Slam of the 2022 season and starts at Melbourne Park on Monday.

The draw was originally supposed to be announced at 3pm local time (04:00 GMT) on Thursday but was delayed by one hour and 15 minutes.

Top seed Djokovic, 34, practised again at Melbourne Park earlier on Thursday, with Australia’s immigration minister Alex Hawke still deciding whether to revoke his visa again and throw him out of the country.

The world number one is hoping to win a record-extending 10th Australian Open men’s title which would be his 21st Grand Slam triumph, moving him clear of Switzerland’s Roger Federer and Spain’s Rafael Nadal.

Djokovic is unvaccinated for Covid-19 and had his visa revoked when he arrived in Australia last week, following questions over the vaccine exemption that would have permitted him to enter.

However, on Monday a judge dramatically overturned the decision and ordered the release of the player from an immigration detention hotel.

What happened in the rest of the draws?

Britain’s former world number one Andy Murray was drawn against 21st seed Nikoloz Basilashvili – a day after beating the Georgian to reach the Sydney quarter-finals.

British men’s number one Cameron Norrie, seeded 12th, faces talented American Sebastian Korda, while 24th seed Dan Evans plays Belgium’s David Goffin.

Heather Watson, who is the only other British woman to have directly qualified for the main draw, takes on Egypt’s Mayar Sherif.

Australian world number one Ashleigh Barty starts her quest for a first home Grand Slam title against a qualifier, while defending champion Naomi Osaka opens against Colombia’s Camila Osorio.

Top seed Barty could face Japan’s Osaka, seeded 13th as she returns after a four-month break from the sport, in the fourth round.

Crowds capped at 50% on show courts

Crowds on the Australian Open show courts have been capped at 50% capacity in response to rising coronavirus rates in Melbourne, the Victorian government announced earlier on Thursday.

However, those sessions on Rod Laver Arena and Margaret Court Arena which have already sold more than that will not be affected. All tickets already bought will remain valid and there will be no changes to ground pass access.

More than 37,000 people tested positive for Covid in Victoria on Wednesday. The state, which has an estimated population of 6.7 million, recorded 25 more deaths and a further 953 people were hospitalised.

“These updates to arrangements for the Australian Open will mean that fans, players and the workforce can look forward to a terrific Covid-safe event,” said Jaala Pulford, Victoria’s acting minister for tourism, sport and major events.

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