Despite the uncertainty about his participation, Serbian Novak Djokovic appeared in the first round draw of the Australian Open, facing his compatriot Miomir Kecmanovic, while Spanish Rafa Nadal will play against American Marcos Giron.
The two stars aspire to win their 21st Grand Slam in Melbourne, an absolute record on the men’s circuit, and break the triple tie with the Swiss Roger Federer, absent from the tournament due to injury.
If the two advance in their respective frames, they would meet in the semi-finals.
Amid speculation about the participation of Djokovic, threatened with deportation after the saga for his visa, the draw for the painting was delayed by more than an hour, although the organizers did not specify the reason.
Nine times winner of the Australian Open, including the last three editions, Djokovic will begin his defense of the title against Kecmanovic, in position 78 of the ATP ranking, if the Australian immigration authorities do not finally decree his expulsion.
For his part, Nadal, who returned last week after months of injury with a victory in the Melbourne Summer Set, will make his Grand Slam debut against the American Giron, in position 66 of the ATP ranking.
Another favorite and finalist the previous year, Russian Daniil Medvedev, was paired with Swiss Henri Laaksonen.
The Argentine Diego Schwartzman will face the Serbian Filip Krajinovic (39 of the ATP ranking), the Chilean Christian Garín the Argentine Facundo Bagnis (71) and the Spanish Roberto Bautista the Italian Stefano Travaglia (86).
Also Spanish Pablo Carreño will receive his rival among those classified from the previous rounds.
In the women’s tournament, the world number one, Australian Ashleigh Barty, will also start her competition against one of the players from the qualifying rounds.
New winner of the WTA Masters Cup, the Spanish-Venezuelan Garbiñe Muguruza, third seeded, will play her first match against the French Clara Burel, 20 years old and in 78th place in the WTA ranking.
For her part, the Spanish Paula Badosa, eighth seeded, will face the Australian Ajla Tomljanovic.
Finally, the reigning Melbourne women’s champion, Japan’s Naomi Osaka, will begin her title defense against Colombian Camila Osorio.