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With uncertainty still swirling around Novak Djokovic, the Australian Open moved forward with its draw ceremony Thursday despite not knowing whether its top seed would be allowed in the country when the tournament begins.
As expected, Djokovic was named the No. 1 seed for the tournament he has won nine times, including the three most recent titles. Behind him at No. 2 was Daniil Medvedev, the Russian who defeated Djokovic in straight sets in the final of the 2021 US Open.
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 13, 2022
Medvedev would typically be considered the biggest threat to Djokovic's chances at a record 21st Grand Slam title, but the world No. 1 is still awaiting a decision from Australian immigration minister Alex Hawke on whether or not his visa will be canceled.
The ceremony was initially scheduled for 3 p.m. local time, but a last-minute delay led to speculation the organizers were pushing back the draw while waiting for a Djokovic resolution. However, the draw would only be pushed back 75 minutes to 4:15 p.m. The reason for the delay remains unclear.
As that was happening, Australian prime minister Scott Morrison was asked about Djokovic and declined comment, referring the matter to Hawke.
Journalist on Djokovic: "How long are you going to let this drag on for?"
Scott Morrison: "I will refer to [Immigration Minister] most recent statement in that position hasn't changed... I don't propose to make any further comment at this time."
— Frances Mao (@francesmao) January 13, 2022
The delay was just another unusual move in an unusual situation. Djokovic apologized on Wednesday for improperly filling out his immigration declaration by claiming he had traveled internationally in the two weeks prior, despite contradictory evidence on social media. He also admitted fault for doing an interview one day after testing positive for COVID-19 in December.
What happens to Australian Open seeding if Novak Djokovic can't play?
Should Hawke decide to cancel Djokovic's visa, the Australian Open will find itself with a sizable gap at the top of its draw.
As Racquet Magazine's Ben Rothenberg laid out, what happens next would depend on when Djokovic is forced to pull out. If Djokovic exits before the order of play for Day 1 is released, No. 5 seed Andrey Rublev would take over his slot, while No. 17 Gael Monfils would move into Rublev's slot.
Should Djokovic pull after the order of play is released, he would be replaced by a lucky fellow who lost in the final round of qualifying. And if Djokovic actually takes the court for a match, there would be no replacement and his next opponent would be granted a walkover.