Djokovic to face immediate risk on comeback


There will be a surprising amount riding on the world number one’s return

Exiled tennis superstar Novak Djokovic’s long reign as world number one could come to an end when he returns to action at an ATP event in Dubai in February – with Australian Open finalist Daniil Medvedev poised to dethrone him when the Russian plays at a tournament on the other side of the world.

World number two Medvedev and Djokovic, who will have been top of the rankings for more than 80 weeks when he makes his much-anticipated comeback, are the frontrunners to officially call themselves the best male tennis player in the world.

Medvedev could have become number one had he not lost a five-set epic to Rafael Nadal at the Australian Open on Sunday, when the Spaniard captured the title that Djokovic had held after the pre-tournament top seed was forced to withdraw because the country’s government canceled his visa over his Covid vaccination status.

Russian Medvedev also had the opportunity to earn points at the Rotterdam Open which starts next week, only to withdraw because he needs more time to recover from his exertions in Melbourne.

World number three Alex Zverev, who also has Russian heritage, could have overtaken Djokovic but was knocked out in the Australian Open fourth round.

Djokovic currently has 11,015 points to Medvedev’s 10,125 and will drop 2,000 points in the middle of February – corresponding to the date in 2021 when he won the Australian Open – according to Sportskeeda.

That is because tennis players ‘defend’ points that they have earned in the previous season, ultimately deciding their rankings.

Djokovic’s dropped points will put Medvedev in a strong position to end the 34-year-old’s impressive run at the top when he competes at the Mexican Open alongside the likes of Nadal from February 21-26.

2020 Dubai Open winner Djokovic’s return to the tournament was a welcome surprise to his fans when it was announced shortly after his controversial departure from Australia.

After Djokovic was held by border officials upon his initial arrival in Australia and later detained in a hotel, Australian Minister for Immigration Alex Hawke succeeded in his second attempt to cancel the player’s visa because he had not received a Covid vaccine.

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Novak Djokovic sat down with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic. © Getty Images
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The drama stunned Djokovic, who had proudly revealed that he was entering Australia on the understanding that he would be allowed in to compete with a medical exemption because he recovered from Covid in December.

All-time great Djokovic was thrilled when he broke familiar rival Roger Federer’s record of 310 weeks as world number one in March 2021.

Djokovic’s longest continuous run as number one was 122 weeks between July 2014 and November 2016.

At the start of February 2022, Djokovic had spent a total of 358 weeks in that position.

Swiss legend Federer is the only other male player to have spent more than 300 weeks at the top of the rankings.

The Dubai Open runs from February 14-26.

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