Who’s the biggest beneficiary of Djokovic’s visa cancellation?

Andrey Rublev
Andrey Rublev could assume the first seed position in the men's draw at the Australian Open for 2022. Photo: @ATPTour

Andrey Rublev could find himself as the effective first seed for the Australian Open if Novak Djokovic is deported, a tournament-altering shift for the Russian fifth seed.

Under Australian Open rules, if the first seed is ruled out of competition after the tournament draw is completed but prior to the Day 1 order of play being released, the fifth seed of the tournament will take their position in the bracket.

Australian Immigration Minister Alex Hawke said in a statement on Friday afternoon that Djokovic’s visa was cancelled “On health and good order grounds, on the basis that it was in the public interest to do so.”

It puts the Serbian first seed in a state of limbo with deportation from Australia hanging over his head.

While Djokovic is expected to appeal his visa cancellation, his appearance at the Australian Open – which enforces a vaccination mandate – is in doubt.

The nine-time winner was the favourite to claim his record-breaking 21st Grand Slam in Melbourne, so his potential withdrawal for the tournament is a huge boost to the rest of the men’s singles draw – and none more-so than Rublev.

Rublev was drawn in the same quarter as compatriot and second seed Daniil Medvedev, who will assume favouritism for the tournament if Djokovic does not play.

Medvedev is in the form of his life, having defeated the Serb in the US Open final at the end of the 2021 to claim his first Grand Slam. He fell to Djokovic in the final of the Australian Open 12 months ago, but breezed his way through the competition to get to that stage.

Rublev holds a 1-5 record against Medvedev and – despite defeating him in their last encounter – will be eager to avoid the Russian at the quarter-final stage at Melbourne Park.

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If Djokovic is withdrawn from the Open, Rublev will effectively become the top seed of the tournament. He will be re-drawn to the position directly opposite from Medvedev, meaning the only match the two could meet in is the final.

In this situation, Rublev’s first opponent would be unranked Serb Miomir Kecmanovic, with the Russian holding a 1-0 head-to-head record over him from Doha in 2020.

His possible route through his quarter could be Tommy Paul (3-1 head-to-head advantage), Sam Querrey (3-1), and Matteo Berrettini (2-3).

It’s still not the easiest run for the 24-year-old, but in avoiding compatriot Medvedev as well as rising star Felix Auger Aliassime in his original quarter he would give himself the best possible chance at making his deepest run yet at the Australian Open.

He would also avoid Gael Monfils (1-1) with the French entertainer moving into Rublev’s vacated position in the ranking. In this scenario, Alexander Bublik would become the 32nd seed and assume Monfils’ place.

Rublev has eight ATP tour titles to his name, and progressed to the quarter-finals of the Australian Grand Slam in 2021 – his best finish at Melbourne Park in his young career.

If Djokovic does not feature at the Australian Open, Andrey Rublev will without doubt be the biggest beneficiary.

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About Jasper Chellappah 242 Articles
Jasper writes on Aussie Rules, basketball, tennis and netball for The Inner Sanctum. His main area is player analysis, with a keen focus on the AFL Draft. He also lends his voice to The Checkside and the SuperCoach Sanctum PODcast each week.

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