Serbian Novak Djokovic named as top seed in draw as the Australian government continue to dispute his claim to have a medical exemption from the country's COVID-19 vaccination requirements.
The 34-year-old defending champion was confirmed in the Australian Open draw at a delayed ceremony on Thursday even though the world number one tennis player’s bid for a record 21st Grand Slam title could yet be cancelled by Australian authorities.
Questions remain over the legal battle regarding his visa to play in the Australian Open in Melbourne.
While his visa was revoked and subsequently re-instated at a court trial, the Australian immigration minister mulls cancelling the tennis star’s visa once again.
The fate of Djokovic, who could get kicked out of Australia before he has a chance to defend his Australia Open grand slam title, has caught public attention in the country like never before.
Top seed Djokovic, a vaccine sceptic, was bracketed to play unseeded fellow Serb Miomir Kecmanovic in the first round at Melbourne Park after organisers delayed the draw for more than an hour without explanation.
Tournament director Craig Tiley also declined to take questions at the end of the subdued ceremony.
Djokovic's inclusion in the draw was greeted with scepticism on social media, with fans and respected international journalists predicting organisers would have to do another draw before the tournament starts on Monday.
Sixth seed Rafael Nadal, who is level with Djokovic on 20 Grand Slam titles along with the absent Roger Federer, will open his campaign against unseeded American Marcos Giron.
Russian second seed Daniil Medvedev, who was thrashed by Djokovic in last year's final before turning the tables on the Serb in the U.S. Open decider, will play Swiss Henri Laaksonen.
In the women's draw, Champion Naomi Osaka, seeded 13th, will begin her title defence against Colombia's Camila Osorio.
In a match of Grand Slam title winners, British U.S. Open champion Emma Raducanu faces a tough opener against American Sloane Stephens. (Reuters)