Tennis: First Serve Blog – A time to reflect on the Novak Djokovic circus

Novak Djokovic is not the only person that needs to reflect, as we tery and summarise the first two weeks of the tennis year!

Djokovic, Tennis Australia and the Australian Government

Let’s be clear – no one comes out of this debacle well. Tennis Australia put themselves in hock last year to move heaven and earth to stage the 2021 Australian Open, and yet still found themselves in hot water – from players contracting Covid-19 on the specially chartered flights, to housing quarantine players in mice-infested rooms, it was a monumental challenge and it just about paid off (although not financially for the organisation).

This year, the trouble started around whether medical exemptions would be accepted. The federal government warned them in November that getting Covid would not be a god enough reason to enter the company unvaccinated, but still players and officials applied in the belief this exemption would be accepted with an official and a WTA player Renata Voracova entering the county.

Would we be in this mess had Novak Djokovic not taken to Instagram to inform everyone he was being let in despite his vocal concern about making people be vaccinated to travel/compete?

Bet on & Watch the Australian Open at bet365 play

We all learned a lot about Australia’s federal government procedures versus the state, and the Victorian state government (who co-run the Australian Open with Tennis Australia) played a part in the medical exemption boards yet declined to accept a request from the federal government to sponsor Djokovic’s application to enter the county.

The plight of less conspicuous detainees at the Park Hotel came into sharp focus as their stories of spending not days without a chef, or kit, or training equipment, but years in these hotel rooms started to come out.

As the federal government started to investigate other medical exemptions, a tennis official voluntarily left the country and WTA player Renata Voracova was also deported, having been in the country competing already. She spoke of how she was hustled into making her decision, with hardly any assistance from what legal assistance she was being provided.

It was that precise technicality that saw Djokovic’s appeal against the cancellation of his visa succeed.

But of course, things spun from bad to worse for the world number one. His exemption rested on the fact he contracted Covid-19 and was tested and diagnosed on the 16th December, but was seen at events and photo shoots once he knew he was positive, in break of Serbian policies.

Whatever his own beliefs are about allowing a rapidly tested vaccine into his body, it was the fact he had been out and about when he should have been isolating that gave the perception of a disregard for others’ safety.

His father inciting fans to take to the streets and fight for his ‘freedom’ did absolutely nothing to allay the Aussies’ fears about public safety.

The finger pointing will go on long after that last trophy is handed out in two weeks time, but the impact on certainly this season will go on.

Djokovic’s legacy will forever be tarnished by this, and it is hard to see how he can proceed with his quest for 21 and beyond without making some very serious decisions.

Onto the tennis

A couple of early narratives spring to mind now. Daniil Medvedev really dos become the man to beat, with Alexander Zverev and Stefanos Tsitsipas hot on his heels in their search for their first Slam titles. 

Rafael Nadal is still in the mix and possibly a decent bet certainly to figure in the quarter-finals but the younger players just seem to have more of an edge on the hard courts at the moment.

Bet on & Watch the Australian Open at bet365 play

It is always worth seeing which seeds fall by the wayside in the first couple of rounds and then perhaps having an outside bet or at the very least a match-by-match bet on any seed-killers in the first week.

Things are open on the women’s side with obviously Ashleigh Barty as the home-crowd favourite after she scooped the singles and doubles titles in Adelaide before wisely taking the second week off to prepare for the big show.

Naomi Osaka has had a less straightforward start to the year – she has rekindled her love for the game but the intensity of her early matches left her with an injury niggle and she too opted to take things easier to give herself the best chance.

Keep an eye out for Paula Badosa. She claimed the Indian Wells trophy at the end of last year and has really had a breakthrough over the past few months. Her win in Sydney puts her right in the mix. 

Do not discount Melbourne winner Simona Halep either. She is a former finalist and after an injury strewn 2021, she looks to have her fighting spirit back.

Where can I find the best odds?

Check out the outrights from Bet365 throughout the Australian Open, and signing up and making a deposit into your account will also give you live streams of matches.

Craig Jones

Craig Jones

Content Manager on Freebets. Experienced punter, from back street, smoke filled betting shops in the 2000s, to state of the art, dedicated betting apps of the 2020s. Covering the gambling industry with expert opinion and looking at the latest innovations.