Novak Djokovic won his first match back on the ATP Tour since missing the Australian Open, beating Lorenzo Musetti in the round of 32 at the Dubai Tennis Championships.

The men's world number one had not played a competitive match since early December and was last month deported from Australia on the eve of the Australian Open.

That decision was a result of Djokovic opting not to join the majority of his tennis peers in getting vaccinated against COVID-19 and amid controversy over how he handled getting the virus himself in December.

On Monday, he eased to a 6-3 6-3 win over Musetti in just 74 minutes in his first match of 2022, hitting five aces, winning an impressive 71 per cent of his second serves (17 out of 24) and saving all seven break points he faced against the Italian.

"All in all, it's a straight-sets win, so of course I have to be satisfied with my tennis, especially after not playing for two-and-a-half, three months," Djokovic said on court after the win.

"Of course, there were moments when I played great, there were moments when I made a couple of unforced errors in a row uncharacteristically. But it's normal to expect that [in my] first match after a while."

Djokovic will play the winner of Karen Khachanov against Alex de Minaur in the last 16.

Andy Murray is also through after a 6-7 (4-7) 6-3 7-5 win against Australian qualifier Christopher O'Connell. The Scot edged a tough match that lasted almost three hours, saving seven of eight break points faced. He will play either Alejandro Davidovich Fokina or Jannik Sinner next.

Elsewhere, Jiri Vesely overcame Marin Cilic 6-4 7-6 (7-3), while Filip Krajinovic beat Malek Jaziri 6-7 (4-7) 6-2 6-4 and Taro Daniel eliminated David Goffin after a 6-3 7-6 (7-5) win.

Bayern Munich have announced that Thomas Muller has tested positive for COVID-19.

The veteran forward contracted the virus for the first time in February 2021 following the Club World Cup in Doha.

Muller has now returned a positive coronavirus test for a second occasion, with the reigning Bundesliga champions confirming he will serve another period of self-isolation.

That likely rules him out of the clash with Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday as Julian Nagelsmann's side look to extend their six-point advantage at the summit of the German top flight.

Muller may target a return for the meeting with Bayer Leverkusen on March 5, dependent on when he returns a negative test and comes back into training.

The Germany international's absence will serve as a blow for the Bavarian team, given he leads the assist charts this season across all competitions at Bayern (19).

Muller has 10 goals to his name - only Robert Lewandowski (39), Leroy Sane and Serge Gnabry (both 12) have managed more - and has created a team-leading 89 chances, 20 more than any team-mate.

The 32-year-old has played the most games for his side this term as well (33), and his absence will frustrate Nagelsmann, who is still without Manuel Neuer after he required knee surgery.

The goalkeeper did, however, return to light training on Monday so could provide a boost for Bayern in the near future, with Alexander Nubel currently deputising in goal.

Rafael Nadal would "welcome" seeing Novak Djokovic play at future grand slam tournaments if he is granted permission to do so unvaccinated against COVID-19.

World number one Djokovic has courted controversy for his views on being jabbed and was last month deported from Australia on the eve of the Australian Open.

Djokovic has confirmed he is willing to miss future slams after stating he was prioritising his right to choose what to put into his body above his sporting ambitions.

In Djokovic's absence, Nadal became Australian Open champion and now has 21 titles – the most for a male player.

Nadal believes that any further omissions from Djokovic would only be harmful to the Serbian's chances of history not the slams themselves, but he would have no issue with his rival playing in the sport's biggest tournaments.

Speaking ahead of his return to the ATP Tour in Acapulco, Nadal said: "It will affect Novak's [grand slam] history if he can't play.

"It will affect him, not the grand slams themselves. Whoever wins the most slams – it will be what it will be. Everyone takes their own decisions and must live with them.

"In that sense, hopefully the pandemic subsides and we stop having so many deaths around the world and this horror ends, and we can return to normality – not for Novak but for the world in general.

"There are many people that have suffered, but if Novak can play the grand slams unvaccinated, then he is welcome."

 

Nadal defeated Daniil Medvedev in an epic Melbourne showpiece to become the first man to 21 slams, but he says the achievement has not changed his life.

"Absolutely nothing has changed having 21 slams, I won't lie to you," he added.

"From 20 to 21 there is not a very large difference. Life goes on exactly the same. The only thing that has changed is that now I play tennis, which a few months ago I couldn't.

"I am very happy for everything that happened in Australia, it was very unexpected, especially before the tournament started. In my life, nothing has changed. No title is going to change what is important in my life, which are other things.

"Already, at 35 years old, I have a lot of experiences behind me, of successes and bad moments and these sensations already help me to live in a more calm and different way."

Novak Djokovic says he will play at whatever tournament will have him as he gears up to make his return to the ATP Tour.

The men's world number one has not played a competitive match since early December and was last month deported from Australia on the eve of the Australian Open.

That decision was a result of Djokovic opting not to join the majority of his tennis peers in getting vaccinated against COVID-19 and amid controversy over how he handled getting the virus himself in December.

Speaking to the BBC in a recent interview, Djokovic stated he was prioritising his right to choose what to put into his body above his sporting ambitions and confirmed he is willing to miss further grand slams if necessary.

With COVID restrictions still in place in many countries, Djokovic acknowledges his options to play are limited.

"I just have to follow the rules. You know, whatever tournament that I'm able to play, I will be trying to get to that country and play the tournament," Djokovic said ahead of facing Lorenzo Musetti in round one of the Dubai Tennis Championships.

"Obviously, I'm not intending to play the full schedule and that wasn't also my intention, as you brought it up and my goal prior to this season or the season before, and I was trying to aim to play my best at the grand slams and some of the 1000 events we have, of course, and playing for my country, those were the biggest motivations that I had in terms of the scheduling. 

"Right now, the situation is obviously different for me. So, I really can't choose right now. It's really about where I can go and play. So, wherever I have an opportunity, I'll be using probably that opportunity and going to play because this is what I do, it's what I love to do still. 

"And I have support from my family and my team is still there with me and that's what's important for me because obviously it was not easy for anyone in my surroundings to go through these kinds of circumstances and situations that we have been through.

"But it's very exciting to have everyone together here with me. And in Dubai, we're back on the tour and then we'll play this tournament and we'll see how it goes further down the line."

Several stars backed the decision for Djokovic to be barred from playing in Melbourne, with most noting that he had not followed the rules in order to do so.

But the Serbian says he has been received warmly ahead of his return to the ATP Tour.

"I haven't seen too many players, but the players that I've seen have been positive and welcoming," he added.

"And it's nice to see obviously. I can't say that was the case in Australia. It was a little bit strange, but here it's well so far."

Thomas Bach reiterated his wish for peace as the president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) officially closed the Beijing Games.

In his welcoming speech earlier in February, Bach stated: "There will be no discrimination for any reason whatsoever. In our fragile world, where division, conflict and mistrust are on the rise, we show the world: yes, it is possible to be fierce rivals, while at the same time living peacefully and respectfully together.

"This is the mission of the Olympic Games: bringing us together in peaceful competition. Always building bridges, never erecting walls. Uniting humankind in all our diversity."

And with tensions between Russia and the west rising over the possibility of a Ukraine invasion, Bach believes the Beijing Games have been the perfect example of "solidarity and peace", as he called on world leaders to be inspired by the athletes.

"Each and every one of you strived to achieve your personal best. We were deeply touched how you were wishing and cheering for your competitors to achieve their best as well.

"You not only respected each other: you embraced each other, even if your countries are divided by conflict.

"You overcame these divisions, demonstrating that in this Olympic community we are all equal – regardless of what we look like, where we come from, or what we believe.

"This unifying power of the Olympic Games is stronger than the forces that want to divide us: you give peace a chance," he said.

Bach also emphasised the importance of the COVID-19 vaccination programme.

The pandemic, which originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan, has been ongoing for two years, and Bach stressed the crucial need for poorer nations to have equal access to the vaccines.

"If we want to finally overcome this pandemic, we must be faster," he said.

"We must aim higher, we must be stronger, we must stand together. Vaccination means caring for each other.

"In this Olympic spirit of solidarity, we call on the international community: give equal access to vaccines for everybody around the world."

Novak Djokovic has said missing grand slams including the French Open and Wimbledon will be "the price I am willing to pay" for resisting the COVID-19 vaccine.

Last month, the world number one and 20-time grand slam winner was deported from Australia on the eve of the Australian Open after his entry visa to the country was cancelled.

That stemmed from Djokovic refusing to join the overwhelming majority of fellow tennis stars in being vaccinated against coronavirus, and amid controversy over how he handled getting the virus himself in December.

In a new interview with the BBC, Djokovic said he was prioritising his right to choose what to put into his body above his sporting ambitions.

The 34-year-old Serbian declared his stance is likely to keep him sidelined for "most of the tournaments" at present.

Djokovic is set to make his return to the court at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships later this month, with vaccination not a requirement. He has been included on the entry list for next month's Indian Wells Open, but that is a tournament he may have to sit out.

He confirmed in the BBC interview that he has still yet to be vaccinated, though did not entirely rule out the prospect in the future.

"I have not," he said. "I understand and support fully the freedom to choose whether you want to get vaccinated or not."

Prior to entering Australia, where he was obliged to confirm his status, it was only widely assumed that Djokovic had not been inoculated.

Now he is keen to "speak up ... and justify certain things", adding: "So I was never against vaccination. I understand that globally everyone is trying to put a big effort into handling this virus and seeing hopefully an end soon to this virus.

"And vaccinations are probably the biggest effort that was made on behalf of the planet. I fully respect that, but I've always represented and always supported the freedom to choose what you put into your body. For me that is essential. It's really the principle of understanding what is right and what is wrong for you.

"And me, as an elite professional athlete, I've always carefully reviewed and assessed everything that comes in, from the supplements, food, the water that I drink or sports drinks. Anything really that comes into my body as a fuel.

"Based on all the information that I got, I decided not to take the vaccine as of today. I keep my mind open because we are all trying to find collectively a best possible solution to end COVID. Nobody really wants to be in this kind of situation that we've been in collectively for two years."

Djokovic is the reigning French Open and Wimbledon champion and, after Rafael Nadal's Australian Open triumph, he has been bumped down to joint second on the all-time men's grand slam list. Missing majors at this stage of his career could be a crushing blow to Djokovic's hopes of finishing top of that pile.

"I'm part of a very global sport that is played every single week in a different location, so I understand the consequences of my decision, and one of the consequences of my decision was not going to Australia, and I was prepared not to go," Djokovic said.

"I understand that not being vaccinated today I am unable to travel to most of the tournaments at the moment. That is the price I am willing to pay."

He looked to disassociate himself from the anti-vax community by saying he had "never said I am part of that movement" and declaring that was a "wrong conclusion" to draw.

At the same time, Djokovic concurred when asked if he was willing to sacrifice the chance to be seen as the greatest player of all time, and to travel to Roland Garros and the All England Club this year.

"Because the principles of decision-making on my body are more important than any title or anything else. I'm trying to be in tune with my body as much as I possibly can," Djokovic said.

"I say that everyone has a right to choose to act or say whatever they feel is appropriate for them."

Australia's three-match T20I series against New Zealand has been cancelled, it has emerged.

Cricket Australia (CA) said the planned fixtures in March had been shelved "due to New Zealand's border controls and quarantine requirements".

The three matches were due to be played in Napier, on March 17, 18 and 20.

Yet the travel restrictions between the two countries, triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic, mean Australia would not be able to make the trip.

In a statement on its website, CA said: "The three-match series, scheduled for March 17-20 at McLean Park in Napier, was initially arranged with the New Zealand government's plan to relax restrictions at the trans-Tasman border in mind.

"However, with those plans now substantially delayed, the decision was made to abandon the series."

CA chief executive Nick Hockley added: "We thank NZ Cricket for making every effort to host the series, but unfortunately it wasn't possible given the border restrictions and quarantine requirements."

The teams are due to clash in the short format later in the year at the T20 World Cup. The October 22 match at the SCG in Sydney will be the opening game for both sides in that tournament.

France head coach Fabien Galthie will miss the Six Nations favourites' opening game against Italy after a positive COVID-19 test.

The 52-year-old said he was experiencing only mild symptoms of the coronavirus, and the French Rugby Federation (FFR) stated Galthie would stay involved with the team from afar.

The FFR said: "Fabien Galthie tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday, February 3, via an antigen test according to the established protocol. The result has been confirmed by a PCR test this Friday, February 4."

Galthie will be able to rejoin the squad from February 8, if he tests negative by then, or February 10.

France team manager Raphael Ibanez is set to stand in for Galthie when Italy visit the Stade de France on Sunday.

There were no more COVID-19 cases detected when the France squad were tested on Friday morning, the FFR said, with another round of testing planned for Saturday.

Galthie said: "This morning, I have tested positive for COVID-19. I'm feeling fine with mild symptoms. As a consequence, I'm isolating and will work remotely this week. Raphael Ibanez and all of my staff, in whom I have full confidence, will be my go-betweens on the pitch."

France cancelled their scheduled Friday news conference as a result of Galthie's test result.

Les Bleus, who finished second in last year's championship but have not won the Six Nations since 2010, are rated as favourites with the bookmakers for the title this time around.

Marita Kramer, Austria's ski jumping World Cup leader and a gold medal favourite, will not be able to compete at the Winter Olympics.

Austria's Kramer has finished on the podium in 13 of the last 14 individual World Cup events at which she has competed, winning 10 of those.

However, she tested positive for coronavirus on January 29 in the last routine PCR test before her planned departure to Beijing.

Kramer, 20, had competed at the World Cup event in Willingen, Germany, that day. The Austrian team subsequently withdrew from the competition on Sunday.

The Austria Ski Federation (OESV) said it hoped she would still be able to feature in the women's ski jump event, which is due to take place on Saturday at the Zhangjiakou venue.

However, it has now been confirmed Kramer will not be competing.

"Our worst fears have become sad certainties," tweeted Ski Austria, the OESV's official Twitter account.

"World Cup dominator Marita Kramer cannot start in Beijing because of positive COVID tests, although she feels physically fit and ready. Lisa Eder steps in as a substitute."

"No words, no feelings, just emptiness," Kramer wrote on Instagram.

"Is the world really this unfair? The last years I have prepared for the Olympics. I have put in so much energy and time in it to make my dreams come true.

"Now it feels that my dreams are gone within one day.

"I will take some time off to refill my body with energy and new dreams to get that fire again."

 

Austria's ski jumping World Cup leader Marita Kramer has tested positive for COVID-19 ahead of the Winter Olympics.

Kramer has finished on the podium in 13 of the last 14 individual World Cup events at which she has competed, winning 10 of those.

The women's ski jump event is due to take place next Saturday, February 5, at the Zhangjiakou venue.

It remains to be seen whether 20-year-old Kramer is able to take part, but the Austria Ski Federation (OESV) said it hoped she would still feature.

In a statement, the OESV said: "Despite the strictest conditions and all conceivable precautions, Marita Kramer tested positive for the COVID virus in the last routine PCR test before the planned departure for the Olympics. The goal remains to compete in the Olympic Games."

The international federation, FIS, said Kramer tested positive on Saturday and "has no symptoms and feels well".

She competed on Saturday at the World Cup event in Willingen, Germany. The Austrian team withdrew from the competition on Sunday.

Canada have reported five COVID-19 cases among their Winter Olympics delegation in Beijing.

The names of those infected have not been released, nor has it been specified whether those affected are athletes or support staff, or a combination of those.

The Beijing 2022 opening ceremony takes place on Friday, February 4, although curling begins two days earlier and freestyle skiing and ice hockey start on the eve of the Games.

The Canadian Olympic Committee said in a statement: "Currently five out of the 246 members of the Team Canada delegation in Beijing are in COVID-19 protocols.

"We are following the Beijing 2022 playbook rules. Part of our strategy was to arrive early to allow time for confirmation testing and, if necessary, the medical expert panel process to unfold.

"Because there will likely be persistent shedders among the delegation, we will not be sharing names at this time. Members of Team Canada's delegation include athletes, coaches and mission team."

Persistent shedders are those who have recovered from having the coronavirus and may no longer be contagious, but who still have remnants of the virus in their system.

The Beijing Games playbook for athletes is their guide to the Games, and it outlines COVID-19 rules, with those that test positive to be taken to a designated hospital if symptomatic, or to an isolation facility if showing no outward signs of the virus.

Canada has a rich tradition of success at the Winter Olympics, finishing third on the medal table at the 2018 Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

The news comes a day after Norway's reigning Winter Olympics skiathlon champion Simen Hegstad Kruger was revealed to have tested positive.

Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni will miss their upcoming World Cup qualifier against Chile due to a positive COVID-19 test.

The Albiceleste have already qualified for Qatar 2022 with five matches to play in the CONMEBOL section.

Scaloni explained at a news conference on Wednesday he had "completed the isolation" but had not received the negative test he required to enter Chile.

With assistant Pablo Aimar also absent as a close contact, coaches Walter Samuel, Roberto Ayala and Diego Placente are set to lead Argentina on Thursday.

"Both Aimar and I are not going to be able to be part of the delegation," Scaloni said. "Pablo has been in his house for several days due to [being a] close contact.

"I completed the isolation several days ago, but I continue to test positive. To enter Chile you need a negative [test result].

"Walter Samuel, Roberto Ayala and Diego Placente are going to be present as part of the coaching staff."

Scaloni also confirmed players Alexis Mac Allister and Emiliano Buendia will miss the game, with the former testing positive for COVID-19 and the latter a close contact.

After their trip to Chile, Argentina are due to play at home to Colombia on Tuesday.

Fabien Galthie provided an encouraging update on Antoine Dupont and Romain Ntamack after France's key duo tested positive for COVID-19 ahead of the Six Nations.

Les Bleus' preparation for the tournament has been hard hit by a host of contracting coronavirus.  

Bernard Le Roux had to make 11 changes to his 42-man squad, with World Rugby Player of the Year Dupont, fly-half Ntamack and Bernard Le Roux among those who were unable to report for international duty.

Galthie on Wednesday revealed the absentees due to COVID-19 are recovering well ahead of his side's opening game of the tournament against Italy at Stade de France a week on Sunday.

The France head coach said: "We keep in touch with all the players from afar, of course.

"We have good news concerning the players and their state of health and spirit and all are doing well."

Mercurial scrum-half Dupont has not played since December 11 due to a knee injury and coronavirus.

Galthie says the playmaker could return for Toulouse in their Top 14 encounter with Racing 92 on Saturday.

"I have spoken to him: he is doing well. He resumed training two weeks ago," said Galthie 

"He wanted to play against Cardiff but the match did not go ahead. Then of course he tested positive for COVID. But he is fine, and is still training. Today he had a test at his club and depending on the results he will play or not for Toulouse this weekend.

"That is up to his head coach Ugo Mola and I have confidence in him he will take the right decision both for his team and for Antoine."

It is 12 years since France won the Six Nations, but they are favourites to end that title drought this time around and that is music to Galthie's ears. 

"I am very happy with this compliment, we’re very happy and proud to be labelled as favourites," he said.

"We are very happy to hear all those positive comments. It's very rewarding, it's rewarding for our two-year work, it's rewarding for all the commitment of the players, the virtues of the team and their dedication on the pitch."

Inter coach Simone Inzaghi has tested positive for coronavirus.

The Serie A champions confirmed the 45-year-old returned a positive test on Monday following routine testing.

In a brief statement, Inter informed supporters that Inzaghi "will now follow the protocols set out in the healthcare guidelines".

Nevertheless, the news is not expected to result in major disruption for the club given they are not to be in action again until February 5, when they host neighbours Milan in the Derby della Madonnina.

Under Italian Football Federation (FIGC) guidelines, players and staff only need to isolate for three days if they are showing no symptoms.

Similarly, any players deemed to be a close contact of Inzaghi's will still be able to train as long as they have not tested positive for the virus.

Measures were introduced at the start of the month that meant players, staff and fans had to have received at least two doses of a coronavirus vaccine to be allowed into stadiums.

However, even before that rule was brought in, Serie A was reported to have had as many as 98 per cent of players already double vaccinated.

Australian Open chief executive Craig Tiley will not stand down from his position over the handling of the Novak Djokovic case and has refuted claims that Tennis Australia funded the world number one's legal expenses.

Tiley was speaking after the Federal Court published the written reasons for rejecting Djokovic's appeal to remain in Australia, stating it was "plainly open" to Immigration Minister Alex Hawke that the reigning Australian Open champion was opposed to a COVID-19 vaccination.

Djokovic failed in his second bid to overturn a decision from the government to cancel his visa on public health grounds at the Federal Court in Melbourne on Sunday, a day before the Australian Open started.

The 20-time grand slam winner arrived back in Belgrade on Monday, bringing an end to a saga that began after he was held at an airport in Melbourne on January 6 due to his travel declaration form containing incorrect information.

It was reported this week that Tennis Australia covered all of Djokovic's legal fees, but Tiley – who was jeered by spectators on Thursday while on-court to present flowers to the retiring Samantha Stosur – denied that was the case.

"I have seen those reports and we don't really go into the detail of financial arrangements we have with players," he told Channel 9. "But those reports are simply untrue."

Asked if he intended to step aside as chief executive due to the perceived mishandling of the saga, Tiley replied "no" before turning focus to the remainder of the tournament.

"I am very focused today on delivering a great event," he said.

"I am proud of being able to stand up here and you can see what is behind us. I am proud of what the team has done and what we have delivered so far."

Djokovic won his first appeal to avoid deportation from Australia, but Hawke used separate powers to again cancel the 34-year-old's visa.

That decision was taken amid much backlash in Australia and was upheld unanimously by three judges of the Federal Court's full bench.

Four days on from that verdict, which denied Djokovic the chance to win a record-extending 10th Australian Open crown, Chief Justice James Allsop delivered the court's reasons for rejecting the challenge.

It was found that it was reasonable for Hawke to be concerned by Djokovic's high-profile presence in the country as it "may encourage rallies and protests that may lead to heightened community transmission."

"An iconic tennis star may influence people of all ages, young or old, but perhaps especially the young and the impressionable, to emulate him," Allsop added in his report.

"This is not fanciful; it does not need evidence.

"Even if Mr Djokovic did not win the Australian Open, the capacity of his presence in Australia playing tennis to encourage those who would emulate or wish to be like him is a rational foundation for the view that he might foster anti-vaccination sentiment.

"I consider that behaviour by influential persons and role models, which demonstrates a failure to comply with, or a disregard of, public health measures has the potential to undermine the efficacy and consistency of the Australian Government’s and State and Territory Governments' management of the evolving COVID-19 pandemic.

"Mr Djokovic is such a person of influence and status. Having regard to the matters set out above regarding Mr Djokovic's conduct after receiving a positive COVID-19 result, his publicly stated views, as well as his unvaccinated status, I consider that his ongoing presence in Australia may pose a risk to the good order of the Australian community."

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