Australian Open ready to go ahead after Djokovic controversy

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SYDNEY: Australian Open will look to put behind the unprecedented controversy and confusion as the season’s first Grand Slam opens Monday without record winner, Novak Djokovic.

The Serbian world No. 1’s decision not to get vaccinated against COVID-19 sparked a saga that dragged through the courts and culminated in him being deported Sunday.

“I am uncomfortable that the focus of the past weeks has been on me and I hope that we can all now focus on the game and tournament I love,” said Djokovic, 34, after his fellow players had complained about just that.

“I would like to wish the players, tournament officials, staff, volunteers and fans all the best for the tournament.”

It halted, for now, his dream of becoming the first man to win 21 Grand Slam titles.

That opportunity is now solely in the hands in Melbourne of rival Rafael Nadal, even if Djokovic’s shadow will continue to loom large over the first major of the year.

Fellow 20-time Grand Slam winner Roger Federer is injured and not in Australia.

The 35-year-old Spaniard Nadal won the warm-up Melbourne Summer Set title on his return from a long injury lay-off and being “very sick” with COVID-19 last month. -Agencies