“Limbo,” the former Australian Open tournament director Paul McNamee had said this week, “is the worst scenario for the tournament.”
Yet for days, the uncertainty of Novak Djokovic’s status had hung over the event. The decision on Friday to cancel his visa for the second time could yield some clarity. His plan to appeal that ruling will only extend it.
But coming when it did, a day after Djokovic was placed in the No. 1 spot in the men’s draw, the cancellation of his visa — if it is upheld — could force a reshuffling of the men’s bracket.
If Djokovic were to be kicked out of Australia, the draw for the men’s singles tournament would have to be reconfigured. According to Grand Slam rules, the No. 5 seed, Andrey Rublev, would move into Djokovic’s vacant slot in the draw. Rublev’s place at No. 5 would then be filled by another seed as part of a series of cascading changes.
But if Djokovic appeals and delays his departure, or if his withdrawal were to come after the order of play for opening day has been released, his place would be taken by a so-called lucky loser: a player who had lost in the qualifying tournament and then been drawn by lot to receive a newly open spot.
And instead of having Djokovic as the favorite to win his record 10th title, and 21st Grand Slam singles championship over all, the focus would shift to three of his most likely rivals for the trophy: the U.S. Open champion Daniil Medvedev; the Olympic champion Alexander Zverev; and the 20-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal.
None of it, of course, is ideal for the Open.
“If Novak was going to be kicked out,” McNamee said, “the time to do it was before the draw.”