By Eleanor Crooks, PA Tennis Correspondent
Novak Djokovic is still hoping to play in the Australian Open, according to Serbian team-mate Dusan Lajovic.
The world number one pulled out of the season-opening ATP Cup, which begins on Saturday, where he had been due to lead his country.
That duty will instead fall to Lajovic but there remains no confirmation over whether or not nine-time champion Djokovic will defend his title at Melbourne Park next month.
— ATPCup (@ATPCup) December 7, 2021
All players must either be vaccinated against coronavirus or secure a medical exemption from the Victorian Government, for which there are strict criteria.
Djokovic has repeatedly refused to say whether or not he is vaccinated but he has previously voiced vaccine scepticism and has spoken out strongly about his belief that athletes should have the right to choose.
At a press conference ahead of the ATP Cup, Lajovic said: “Unfortunately he’s not able to come here but he was I think hoping, same as we did, that somehow he will be here. Unfortunately he’s not, and we’ve got to deal with it.”
Regarding Djokovic’s chances of playing in Melbourne, Lajovic added: “He just said that he’s not coming to the ATP (Cup) and trying to get to Australian Open.”
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) December 29, 2021
Players have been arriving in Australia over the last few days and stepping up their preparations for the 2022 season but, with the Omicron variant of Covid-19 surging across the world, disruption appears inevitable.
French Open finalist Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova is the latest player to reveal she is isolating after testing positive on arrival in Australia.
Andy Murray missed the tournament last year after an ill-timed bout of the virus but is among those who have been pictured practising at Melbourne Park along with defending women’s champion Naomi Osaka.