Novak Djokovic will once again be the man to beat the Australian Open with doubles great Todd Woodbridge saying his return to the hard-court Grand Slam is the “best scenario for the tournament”.
Nine-time Melbourne Park champion Djokovic missed his title defence at the start of the year after he was deported from the country due to his unvaccinated Covid-19 status.
His deportation resulted in an automatic three-year visa ban, but he was last week cleared to play at next year’s tournament after the country’s new immigration minister overturned the ban.
In Djokovic’s absence, Nadal won this year’s Australian Open as he defeated Daniil Medvedev in the final and the Spaniard will no doubt be keen to successfully defend his title come January next year.
Besides Djokovic, Nadal and Medvedev, US Open champion and world No 1 Alcaraz will also be the contention to win the title.
Australia great Woodbridge, who won 16 men’s doubles Grand Slam titles, is happy that Djokovic will return and he feels the Serbian will be favourite.
“I think that’s the best scenario for the tournament because we want the best players playing at the Australian Open,” he told Wide World of Sports Radio.
“What goes into the [Australian] Open in terms of the build-up, prize money, what it does to our reputation around the world – we want the very best to be allowed to come here and allowed to play.
“Given the fact that Novak has won it nine times, he goes into it now as a heavy favourite after not being allowed to play this year.”
Djokovic won Wimbledon this year, but he didn’t earn any points for his title after the ATP stripped the tournament of ranking points over the ban of Russian and Belarusian players.
The Serbian then missed the North American hard-court swing and Alcaraz’s success at Flushing Meadows saw him take over at No 1 in the world.
Djokovic, though, finished the year with five titles as he also won the Italian Open, Tel Aviv Open, Astana Open and the season-ending ATP Finals.
Woodbridge, though, says Djokovic remains the No 1 in his eyes.
“In my mind, the rankings this year are so skewed,” he said.
“He [Djokovic] is still the No 1 player in the world and to have him back is really important.”
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