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The Djokovic story won’t go away but at Australian Open play must go on | Novak Djokovic

He was nowhere and he was in all places. Etched into the pavement and lingering within the air, every fragile fragment of an environment carrying resentment and reduction and fairly a bit in between. Melbourne Park is the house of Novak Djokovic’s hubris, the venue at which he gained his very first grand slam and has loved probably the most success of his profession so far.

His psyche – that controversial soul of his – is seared into the seats at Rod Laver Area, the place he has lifted 9 singles trophies but is not going to chase a tenth this yr. Now it feels he has been forged as Voldemort, the Darkish Lord who must not be named – at least by just about each participant who shouldn’t be Serbian.

Naomi Osaka was the primary invited to supply her two cents “Do you consider Djokovic must be enjoying at the Australian Open this yr?” a journalist requested after her opening-round win over Colombian Camila Osorio. “Is my opinion going to assist something?” she replied. The media pressed on. But what did different gamers consider the state of affairs? “Yeah, I’ll sort of go on that,” she stated. “Thanks, although.”

Gaël Monfils merely wouldn’t be drawn. Rafael Nadal, the one former champion left within the draw, was a bit of extra expansive.

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“I believe the state of affairs has been a large number,” he stated after overwhelming American Marcos Giron – an announcement win in his personal marketing campaign to achieve a document 21 grand slam titles. “He’s not the one one which most likely did dangerous issues in that case. There are extra [parties] accountable on this horrible state of affairs we’ve confronted over the past two weeks, but he’s a kind of accountable.”

After which: “I don’t need to discuss anymore about that.”

The Serbian opponents, although, have been within the temper for a roasting. Dušan Lajović, who noticed off Márton Fucsovics in 5 units, stated “the best way they handled him was terribly mistaken”.

Laslo Đere, who was knocked out by Denis Shapovalov, lamented a “true catastrophic state of affairs”. “To let you know the reality,” he stated, “I believe not simply Serbians, I believe the entire world noticed it and so they most likely could have a brand new or totally different opinion about Australia.”

Japan’s Naomi Osaka speaks at a press conference at Melbourne Park in Melbourne.
Japan’s Naomi Osaka wouldn’t get entangled within the Djokovic debate. {Photograph}: Vince Caligiuri/TENNIS AUSTRALIA/AFP/Getty Photos

Miomir Kecmanović, in the meantime, bought busy exacting retribution on behalf of his countryman.

“I believe it wasn’t dealt with properly and issues may have gone a lot smoother and higher for everyone,” the 77th-ranked 22-year-old stated. “It’s positively horrible that they needed to kick him out like that. We stated that we’re going to present the whole lot now we have, attempt to avenge him in a approach, and make him proud.”

Some 24 hours in the past Kecmanović was nonetheless scheduled to play his opening match in opposition to Djokovic beneath lights on Rod Laver. Within the absence of his box-office opponent, he was relegated to 1573 Area within the afternoon solar, and in entrance of considerably fewer spectators. A grand whole of 104 punters watched him shut out the third set in opposition to Djokovic’s substitute within the draw, Salvatore Caruso.

The Italian had dubbed himself “probably the most well-known fortunate loser on this planet”. Kecmanović must have felt at least a bit of fortunate too, having superior to the second spherical largely as a result of he confronted the world No 150 as an alternative of the world No 1. Serbian supporters have been few and much between on Monday, a stark distinction to the scenes exterior Carlton’s Park Lodge the place Djokovic was held forward of his failed court docket problem to have his cancelled visa reinstated for a second time. But there have been two males clapping enthusiastically after every level at one finish of the court docket. Up the opposite finish was a gaggle of 5, who let loose the odd chant and earned a post-match handshake from Kecmanović for his or her efforts.

Lower than three hours later Alexander Zverev and Daniel Altmaier have been slogging out an all-German contest in his unique slot. They entertained a complimentary centre-court crowd. There have been no boos or unsavoury commentary; he-who-must-not-be-named was not current.

It was in stark distinction to final yr’s closing. Within the minutes after Djokovic beat Daniil Medvedev to the 2021 title, the group booed throughout the presentation ceremony, set off by the Tennis Australia president’s point out of Covid-19 vaccines. Victoria had already endured one of many world’s most gruelling lockdowns and simply emerged from a snap second (there have now been six) and vaccination was a sizzling subject.

Djokovic had been a divisive speaking level too, having contracted the virus seven months prior at his unsanctioned Adria Tour, that includes a now notorious dance celebration. The occasion was branded a super-spreader and curtailed whereas he had subsequently drawn criticism for sending Tennis Australia some pre-tournament strategies on how they may enhance situations for the mass of gamers in resort quarantine.

Monday’s environment was cordial, but it was additionally heavy with the remnants of a story that merely is not going to go away, the irritating butt of a cigarette that can not be disposed off as a result of nobody can find a bin.

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“I hope that sooner or later he [Djokovic] would be the greatest tennis participant in historical past,” Lajović stated. “And that this might be solely regarded at as a setback on his path to be one of the best tennis participant to ever play the game. That is my opinion, and I don’t suppose there’s extra so as to add to it.”

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