The week before a Grand Slam is usually the calm before the storm, but the last seven days have been anything but. Novak Djokovic’s ongoing visa saga continued, after he had it cancelled when landing in Melbourne last week but won an appeal to overturn the decision. While spending most of the week practicing on Rod Laver Arena as normal, Australia’s Immigration Minister spent the week considering whether to use his personal powers to cancel the Serb’s visa for a second time.
It meant that the nine-time Aussie Open champion was detained at the Park Hotel once again on Saturday ahead of his appeal hearing, but the Federal Court judges did not rule in his favour on Sunday and upheld the decision to revoke his visa.
After the decision was made, the 20-time Grand Slam champion released a statement saying: “I will now be taking some time to rest and to recuperate, before making any further comments beyond this. I am extremely disappointed with the ruling. 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. I would like to wish the players, tournament officials, staff, volunteers and fans all the best for the tournament.”
He was seen leaving Melbourne later on in the evening and is now not expected to address the matter until after the conclusion of the Australian Open.
His deportation means he will not be able to win a 21st Slam until at least the French Open and gives Rafael Nadal the chance to overtake him and Roger Federer. He is the only one of the iconic trio competing in Melbourne.
And Nadal’s chances of a first Australian Open triumph since 2009 are greatly increased without defending champion Djokovic at Melbourne Park, given the two might have met in the semi-finals.
Emma Raducanu crashes out in first match of the season
Raducanu was back in action this week, playing her first tournament of 2022 – her first full season on the professional tour.
Before the event even began she was thrown a curveball after her initial opponent – 2020 French Open champion Iga Swiatek – withdrew and was replaced by ninth seed Elena Rybakina, who had just made the final in Adelaide.
The teenager, who reached a career-high world No 18 earlier in the week, had her pre-season preparations thrown off by a positive Covid test and withdrew from the Melbourne WTA 250 the week before to allow herself more time to practice.
But her stay in Sydney was a short one, as she suffered an emphatic loss at the hands of the 22-year-old, winning just one game as Rybakina dispatched of the US Open winner 6-0 6-1 in 55 minutes.
Following the loss, Raducanu went straight to the practice court to work on her serve – which let her down in the match – but remained in good spirits as she said: “I think that I will brush this off. Because for me, like, just getting out there, playing points, yesterday was pretty much like my second time playing competitive points for like two months, even in practice.”
Andy Murray reaches first final in more than two years with top-25 wins
While it was bad news for Raducanu in Sydney, another Grand Slam-winning Brit managed a hugely successful week in the ATP side of the tournament.
Murray suffered an early exit himself in Melbourne last week, but turned things around as he competed in Sydney for the first time.
The former world No 1 defeated qualifier Viktor Durasovic before going on an incredible run, beating the second, eighth and fourth seeds to reach his first final since October 2019, when he won the European Open in Antwerp.
His impressive run came to an end in the final where he lost to top seed Aslan Karatsev, but it was an encouraging week for the world No 135, winning his semi-final match three years to the day since he gave a tearful press conference at the Australian Open and admitted it would likely be the final match of his career due to an ongoing hip injury.
But this week he showed that moment was nothing but a bad memory as he scored two top 25 wins over world No 25 Reilly Opelka and No 23 Nikoloz Basilashvili.
And it could be two wins in the space of a week for Murray over Basilashvili, as he has drawn the 21st seed in the first round of the Australian Open.