The situation is strangely reminiscent of the toing and froing that distracted so much attention from the Australian Open build-up in early January. Once again, Djokovic appears to be making a late and unexpected bid to participate in an event that should not – on the face of things – be able to accommodate him.
If he does manage to arrive at Indian Wells – the prestigious Californian tournament run by Oracle billionaire Larry Ellison, which is often known as the fifth major – Djokovic will have pulled an unexpected rabbit from the hat.
If he does not, however, then the draw will have to be reshuffled to accommodate him in a similar manner to the way the Australian Open draw was amended at the last minute. In Melbourne, his Serbian compatriot Miomir Kecmanovic ended up occupying the line that is normally reserved for the top seed.
That last-minute reorganisation led to an unbalanced draw in Australia, and this latest confusion could end up having similar consequences. In which case Djokovic will once again be accused of carelessly vandalising events with his late attempts to participate.
In theory, Djokovic wouldn’t have to get to Palm Springs – the nearest urban centre to the Indian Wells Tennis Garden – until Friday or even Saturday, as he is seeded No 2 and would thus receive a first-round bye. Perhaps he is hoping that the US will suddenly relax their Covid policies, or perhaps he has another plan in mind.
His theoretical first-round opponent would be the winner of the first-round meeting between David Goffin and Jordan Thompson. Were he to pull out, a so-called “lucky loser” from the qualifying event would replace him, while Grigor Dimitrov would earn a late promotion into the seeds at No16.
Barring some late and unreported change of heart, Djokovic remains the only man ranked in the world’s top 100 who has not received a Covid vaccination.