Novak Djokovic is likely to face a tricky route to glory at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships if the Serbian star crowns his return to competitive action with another ATP title. It will be the first time Djokovic takes to the court since his controversial deportation from Australia last month.
Djokovic’s attempt to regain his Australian Open title was stopped dead in its tracks when Australian Immigration Minister Alex Hawke used his personal powers to deport the unvaccinated star.
The 34-year-old had obtained a medical vaccine exemption to compete down under, which caused a stir in a country which endured months of strict Covid measures.
Since then, Djokovic has doubled down on his opposition to mandated vaccines, but Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships tournament director Salah Tahlak claims he has ‘no concerns’ about the situation.
The world No 1 has prevailed on five occasions in Dubai, representing one of his most successful ATP 500-level tournaments.
READ MORE: Alex de Minaur responds to reports he’s being ‘investigated’ in fake Covid passport plot
As pointed out by tennis journalist Fernando Murciego, however, he may have to overcome some big names if he is to take home the top prize.
Djokovic kicks off his Dubai campaign against Italian teenager Lorenzo Musetti.
But if he pulls through in that encounter as expected, the 20-time Grand Slam champion will face either Karen Khachanov or Alex de Minaur – both of whom are hovering around the world’s top 30.
In the quarter-finals, Djokovic would likely meet one of two seasoned veterans: Roberto Bautista Agut or Marin Cilic.
Victory would likely present the Serb with a daunting semi-final match-up against Felix Auger-Aliassime, who crashed out of the Australian Open in the quarter-final to eventual finalist Daniil Medvedev after a five-set epic.
The 21-year-old Canadian won his first ATP Tour title in Rotterdam last week, beating Stefanos Tsitsipas and earning a personal congratulations from Roger Federer.
The final would potentially see Djokovic matched up against either Andrey Rublev or Jannik Sinner.
Both are currently inside the world’s top 10 and would be formidable opponents, although the 34-year-old has never lost to either player.
Fans are likely to savour Djokovic’s next outing in Dubai, with his entry into future tournaments broadly uncertain.
“I’ve always supported the freedom to choose what you put in your body,” he told the BBC this week.
He also claimed that he was willing to miss out on more titles, “because the principles of decision making on my body are more important than any title or anything else.
“I’m trying to be in tune with my body as much as I possibly can.”