Djokovic pulls out of ATP Cup in Sydney fuelling doubts Serbian will miss Australian Open over vaccine mandate

Djokovic's father told a Serbian television station his son would likely pull out of the Australian Open as the country's tennis association's vaccine mandate was tantamount to 'blackmail'

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Novak Djokovic has pulled out of the Serbian team for the ATP Cup in Sydney, event organisers said on Wednesday, raising further doubts over whether the world number one player will defend his Australian Open title next month.

There has been intense speculation over Djokovic's participation in both events, with the 34-year-old, who is opposed to COVID-19 vaccinations, repeatedly declining to say if he has been inoculated against the virus.

Organisers of the Australian Open, which starts on Jan. 17, have stipulated that all participants must be vaccinated against the coronavirus or have a medical exemption granted by an independent panel of experts.

Australian Open organisers Tennis Australia and global men's tennis governing body ATP did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

ATP Cup organisers said Serbia's team would now be led by world number 33 Dusan Lajovic.

Owing to Djokovic's current world ranking, Serbia received top billing for the 16-team event, which runs from Jan. 1-9, and were put in Group A along with Norway, Chile and Spain when the draw was held this month.

Djokovic has won a record nine Australian Open titles, including the last three, and is in a three-way tie on 20 major titles with Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal.

His father Srdjan told a Serbian television channel last month that Djokovic would probably pull out of the major, saying Tennis Australia's stance on mandatory vaccination was tantamount to "blackmail".

The season-opening ATP Cup also saw Austria, which failed the eligibility criteria following the withdrawal of both Dominic Thiem and Dennis Novak, replaced by France.

Russia, which won the 2021, will be missing Andrey Rublev and Aslan Karatsev from that team.