Novak Djokovic has announced he will play at the Australian Open, revealing he has been given "exemption permission" to compete.

The world number one and nine-time champion in Melbourne has not declared whether he has been vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus.

Australia has stringent rules about who should be allowed to enter the country, with tennis players needing to be either vaccinated or hold a medical exemption in order to play the grand slam tournament.

Serbian superstar Djokovic wrote on Instagram: "I’ve spent fantastic quality time with my loved ones over the break and today I'm heading Down Under with an exemption permission. Let's go 2022!!"

Atletico Madrid confirmed Antoine Griezmann has been granted permission from health authorities to return to training.

Griezmann was among five to test positive for COVID-19 on December 30 along with coach Diego Simeone, Koke, Hector Herrera and Joao Felix.

All of them went into immediate isolation, with only Simeone being able to leave quarantine in time for Sunday's 2-0 LaLiga win over Rayo Vallecano.

But Griezmann has been cleared to return to the training pitch as well after his latest test came back negative, making his a case of "resolved infection".

An Atletico statement read: "Antoine Griezmann has received clearance from LaLiga to return to training.

"The French player represents a case of resolved infection that meets the conditions set by the Strategy for Early Detection, Surveillance and Control of COVID-19 of the Ministry of Health, dated December 19, 2021."

As such, Griezmann could potentially feature against Rayo Majadahonda in the Copa del Rey on Thursday.

Otherwise, he will hope to be involved away to Villarreal on Sunday.

Ferran Torres and Pedri have tested positive for COVID-19, Barcelona have confirmed.

The two Spain internationals are the latest in a spate of positive cases at the club.

Ahead of Sunday's 1-0 win at Real Mallorca, Barca were without 17 players and 10 of those were absent due to coronavirus.

But Monday's confirmation of Pedri and Torres also contracting the virus shows they are not out of the woods yet.

Barca's statement said the players were isolating at home and in "good health".

Nevertheless, new signing Torres was not available for selection yet anyway due to LaLiga salary cap rules preventing him from being registered until Barca offload players.

Similarly, Pedri was still on the road to recovery from a muscular injury that has plagued his season.

Both Pedri and Torres were among the 17 players considered unavailable for the win over Mallorca.

Barca are next in action on Wednesday when they face Linares in the Copa del Rey, before travelling to Granada in LaLiga on Saturday.

 

 

The Golden State Warriors are set to be bolstered by the return of Draymond Green after the All-Star forward cleared the NBA's health and safety protocols.

Green is eligible to play in Monday's home game against the Miami Heat having been sidelined since Christmas Day's win over the Phoenix Suns.

The 31-year-old entered protocols on December 27, missing the Warriors' past two games, including a narrow loss to the Denver Nuggets which led to him criticising the NBA's decision to postpone the reverse fixture.

The Warriors were set to face Denver in the second of a two-game showdown on Friday, but a coronavirus outbreak within Nuggets camp forced the game to be called off.

Green is averaging 8.4 points, 7.9 rebounds, 7.5 assists, 1.2 blocks and 1.4 steals per game this season.

Ronaldo has tested positive for COVID-19 and was forced to miss Sunday's anniversary celebrations of Cruzeiro, the Brazilian club he recently bought.

The two-time Ballon d'Or winner, who top-scored in Brazil's 2002 World Cup triumph, has been experiencing mild symptoms of the coronavirus.

Ronaldo had been due to attend events marking Cruzeiro's 101st anniversary, but the 45-year-old former Barcelona, Real Madrid and Inter striker was instead isolating.

His positive case was announced by the Brazilian club, who were acquired by Ronaldo, with the support of an investment bank, in December.

"Cruzeiro reports that this Sunday morning Ronaldo Nazario tested positive for COVID-19," the Campeonato Serie B club said.

"This makes it impossible for him to travel to Belo Horizonte today, as well as his presence in the commemorative actions for the club's anniversary.

"Ronaldo is doing well, with mild symptoms and, on medical advice, is now in rest and social isolation."

Ronaldo has been majority owner of Spanish club Real Valladolid since 2018 and serves as the Segunda Division team's president. He had been due to meet with representatives of Cruzeiro supporters on Sunday and was scheduled to appear at a news conference on Monday before taking ill.

He began his playing career at Cruzeiro as a teenage sensation before heading to Europe to join Dutch giants PSV after the 1994 World Cup.

Ronaldo wrote on Twitter: "Cruzeiro nation, this is not the way I wanted to spend this January 2 which is more than special for us.

"I had the greatest anticipation and everything was organised for this moment. But there are situations in life that are beyond our control and, unfortunately, last night I found myself in one of them. I started to feel bad, had a PCR and woke up today with a positive result for COVID-19.

"The most important thing is that I am vaccinated, I will follow the isolation protocols and, at the end of it, I hope to be 100 per cent recovered to resume my schedule.

"Our meeting was not cancelled, it was postponed due to circumstances. And I make a point of celebrating with you the anniversary of our club! It's just the beginning of our fight together! I count on you, count on me."

Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley says it should become clear in "the coming days" if Novak Djokovic will defend his title at Melbourne Park this month.

Djokovic withdrew from the ATP Cup in Sydney last week and has not yet arrived in Melbourne for the first grand slam of the year.

Players must be vaccinated or have a medical exemption in order to play in the opening major of 2022 and Djokovic has refused to disclose whether he has been jabbed.

Tiley is unsure whether the world number one will go in search of a record 21st grand slam title at the Australian Open, which starts on January 17.

"We've still got a few charter flights coming in until the end of this week and then all the players will be here," he told the Nine Network.

"As far as the status relates to Novak, I think we'll have a much clearer picture in the coming days otherwise it's getting pretty late to show up and play the Australian Open."

He added: "There's quite a bit to play out and I think it will play out in the coming days."

Djokovic has won the Australian Open men's singles title a record nine times and beat Daniil Medvedev in the 2021 final. 

Lionel Messi has tested positive for COVID-19, Paris Saint-Germain have announced.

The Argentine forward and seven-time Ballon d'Or winner will miss the Coupe de France game against Vannes on Monday as a result.

French giants PSG said Juan Bernat, Sergio Rico and Nathan Bitumazala had also tested positive.

"They are currently in isolation and are subject to the appropriate health protocol," the Ligue 1 leaders announced on their website.

Head coach Mauricio Pochettino is expected to field a young side in the domestic cup game, with Neymar also unavailable as he continues to recover from an ankle injury.

PSG said Neymar would continue to be treated in Brazil for another week. "His return to training is still expected to be in about three weeks," the club said.

Pochettino said in a news conference: "We have been living with the virus for two years now, and I think we all know we need to avoid it.

"But it is a virus we have been living with for a long time and there is still a lot that we do not know about how it works.

"Leo Messi has been in regular contact with our medical team and when he has a negative test he will travel to France, and we do not know any more than that."

PSG play their first Ligue 1 game of 2022 against Lyon next Sunday, but with former Barcelona captain Messi currently in Argentina he appears to be a significant doubt for that fixture.

"I do not know if he will be involved against Lyon," Pochettino said. "Until Leo Messi gets a negative test in Argentina, he will not be able to travel to France.

"It is all down to the test in terms of when he can travel. When he does, we will assess when he is ready to play."

England head coach Chris Silverwood has tested positive for COVID-19 during his team's dismal Ashes tour.

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) confirmed Silverwood, who was already due to miss the fourth Test, had joined the number of positive cases in and around the team camp.

It emerged after the Melbourne Boxing Day Test that a member of Silverwood's family had tested positive.

That set up the possibility that Silverwood himself may have come into sufficiently close contact to be infected.

Silverwood was forced to isolate, ruling him out of the Sydney Cricket Ground clash with Australia, which begins Down Under on Wednesday. Now, a positive test means he must wait to rejoin the team.

England are expecting him to be available again to take the reins for the series closer in Hobart, starting on January 14. In the meantime, batting coach Graham Thorpe is stepping up to direct team operations.

In a widely reported statement, the ECB said: "England men's head coach Chris Silverwood has tested positive for COVID-19.

"Silverwood has been isolating in Melbourne since December 30 following a positive test from one of his family members. He will remain in isolation until January 8.

"Silverwood is asymptomatic and is fully vaccinated. He is expected to return to the England party in Hobart ahead of the fifth Ashes Test."

The news comes after England great Graham Gooch expressed dismay at England's inability to be competitive in Australia.

They have already lost the series, after suffering heavy defeats in Brisbane, Adelaide and Melbourne, with Silverwood's position coming under scrutiny.

Speaking to Stats Perform, former captain and opener Gooch said: "I'm bitterly disappointed because losing a Test match is one thing, losing a series is one thing.

"But, what's really concerning for me is the lack of competitiveness of our team against Australia not only in the match at Melbourne, but in the previous two matches. 

"They've outplayed us, out-batted, out-bowled and out-fielded us in all three Tests, in most of the sessions.

"We've had a couple of half sessions, which we've done well with Joe Root and Dawid Malan scoring a few runs, Jimmy Anderson bowling a brilliant spell to help England dismiss Australia at the MCG for 267. But apart from that, we've been lacking."

Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti wants consistency when it comes to match postponement protocols following calls to have Barcelona's trip to Real Mallorca cancelled despite them being able to name a squad.

Several LaLiga clubs have suffered with coronavirus outbreaks over the past month or so, with Madrid among them.

Their bitter rivals Barcelona have come into 2022 amid something of a selection crisis of their own, with Xavi set to be without 17 players for their trip to Real Mallorca on Sunday.

Nine of the 17 are absent due to testing positive for COVID-19 in the past week, with Barca coach Xavi calling the decision not to postpone their match "crazy".

While postponements have become commonplace in the Premier League in recent weeks, LaLiga has remained generally uninterrupted due to regulations that make such situations far rarer.

Teams still have to play so long as they have 13 available players from their first and second teams.

Clubs must continue to adhere to the rule that dictates a minimum of seven players registered to the senior team are on the pitch at the same time, but that can drop to five players if teams have fewer than seven professionals available for selection.

Essentially, providing Barca can name five first-team players in a starting XI – there are 11 in the squad travelling to Mallorca – their games will not be postponed, and Ancelotti points out that any wavering in this regard would highlight a lack of consistency.

When asked if games should be postponed, Ancelotti told reporters: "It's a complicated issue. I respect everyone's opinion, because each person has their own.

"A lot of teams have been affected, as we were against Athletic [Bilbao]. There are protocols. We can offer opinions but we have to respect the protocols.

"Before making these decisions [to postpone games], the protocols would have to be changed.

"We've already been on hiatus, and there were a few months without games being played. The pandemic is relatively under control, and we have to continue [playing]."

Given Ancelotti's news conference fell on January 1, he was predictably asked again about the possibility of signing Kylian Mbappe on a free transfer – the Frenchman is now eligible to discuss a move as he is in the final six months of his contract.

But, unsurprisingly, the Italian gave short shrift to the questioning.

"I don't know," he replied to being quizzed on whether Mbappe will join. "We're thinking about fighting for titles.

"It's an interesting time because we're fighting for LaLiga, and the Copa del Rey and Supercopa de Espana are starting too.

"It's an important period. The last thing I'm thinking about is what's going to happen on June 30.

"What I want is that, when the new stadium opens, I'll be sitting on the bench."

Xavi believes forcing Barcelona to play Real Mallorca on Sunday is "crazy" due to the Blaugrana's 17 first-team absences.

Barca were hit with a spate of COVID-19 cases during the winter break, with as many as 10 players testing positive for the illness.

One of those – Samuel Umtiti – has since returned a negative test meaning he is technically available for Sunday's trip, though he is not deemed match fit after being unable to train in the past week.

Additionally, Xavi is without five players through injury; Sergio Busquets is suspended; Yusuf Demir is negotiating his departure; and Ferran Torres, who is injured anyway, cannot be registered until Monday at the earliest.

While postponements have become commonplace in other competitions, such as the Premier League, regulations in LaLiga make such situations much rarer.

Teams will still have to play so long as they have 13 available players from their first and second teams. Clubs must continue to adhere to the rule that dictates a minimum of seven players registered to the senior team are on the pitch at the same time.

But that minimum can drop to five players if teams have fewer than seven professionals available for selection – essentially, as long as Barca can name five first-team players in a starting XI, their games will not be postponed, much to the frustration of Xavi.

"It makes no sense to play tomorrow," Xavi told reporters in Saturday's pre-match news conference.

"We are in an extreme situation. We have between 17-18 casualties, it depends on Umtiti, who today has tested negative but has not trained for a week.

"It's a time to suspend the game. In this way [not postponing the game], the competition is adulterated, it is crazy to play like this.

"We have no choice but to compete with who we have. Mallorca has also asked for it [the game to be postponed].

"We must appeal to common sense. It's not a complaint, it's a reality. Basketball has been suspended.

"We will play if LaLiga forces us. We've trained well, but it's a chaotic situation. Be that as it may, we will go out to compete and try to win."

Barca head into their first game of 2022 seventh in LaLiga, 18 points adrift of leaders Real Madrid.

Dan Biggar fears a "huge step backwards" if there are no crowds allowed at matches moving into 2022.

While crowds at sporting events have yet to be capped in England, matches in Wales and Scotland are now limited when it comes to capacity, amid a sharp rise in coronavirus cases.

Wales' first minister Mark Drakeford has not put any timescale on when the restrictions will be lifted, with the Six Nations set to start on February 5.

Scotland will formally review their measures on January 11, while France – where over 18,000 people were in hospital with COVID-19 as of December 30 – has imposed restrictions on travellers from the United Kingdom, with their government insisting that all sportspeople must be fully vaccinated by mid-January in order to enter the country.

Italy, likewise, is experiencing unprecedented levels of new recorded cases of the virus as the Omicron variant spreads across Europe.

But Wales fly-half Biggar believes banning spectators would be a frustrating move that will only damage the game.

"It would be a huge, huge step backwards if there are no crowds moving forwards for clubs and the Six Nations which is obviously such a showpiece event," he told reporters.

"You saw it in the autumn, getting crowds back. Everyone coming to games now has to have a passport, they'll be double or triple-jabbed, and it's an outdoor event so I don't see why they wouldn't be allowed in.

"As long as it's safe, that's the most important thing.

"I hope for an event like the Six Nations and for the game up and down the UK moving forward we get some sort of sensible outcome.

"As long as everyone is safe and jabbed then I think it makes sense to keep crowds in. I think you would have seen a different [Northampton against Harlequins] game if the stadium had been completely empty.

"We played a lot of games with no crowds but if you look at the first handful of games they almost felt like training games.

"It felt like it did not really matter whether you won or lost because it felt like a training match and like the intensity was knocked out of it. You lose any advantage of playing at home and bits and pieces like that.

"I think it would be a huge step backwards if crowds were to go. I think the rest of the lads in Wales are pretty frustrated with it. That's normal frustration isn't it?

"We are probably getting into different things with politics now but I think everything should be aligned."

Wales, the defending Six Nations champions, start their campaign against Ireland on February 5, with their first home game scheduled for February 12, against Scotland.

Inter forward Edin Dzeko has again tested positive for coronavirus, the club announced on Friday.

Dzeko was reportedly sent home as a precaution from Inter's first training session back following the mid-season break after exhibiting cold symptoms on Thursday.

It was not known at that time whether it was COVID-19, but Inter confirmed the following day that three players, including Dzeko, had tested positive for the virus.

Martin Satriano and Alex Cordaz make up the trio of coronavirus absentees, with the Serie A leaders stating the three players are already in self-isolation at home and following the government's health guidelines.

This is the second time Dzeko has contracted the virus, having tested positive in November 2020 when at Roma.

Dzeko has led the line effectively with Lautaro Martinez this campaign, scoring eight times and assisting three goals in 18 Serie A outings.

Indeed, the Bosnia-Herzegovina international has comfortably exceeded his expected goals (xG) total of 5.89, while only strike partner Martinez has found the net more often for Inter this season (11).

Inter head into early January in control of Serie A, sitting four points clear at the summit, with their next game against Bologna scheduled for next Thursday.

Australian batsman Travis Head has been ruled out of the fourth Ashes Test and returning a positive test for Covid-19.

Cricket Australia confirmed that the 28-year-old is asymptomatic and will not fly with the squad to Sydney on Friday for the fourth Ashes Test due to start at the SCG on January 5.

The remainder of the Australian squad, their families and the team's support staff have undergone PCR and RAT tests on Friday and are still planning to travel to Sydney on Friday.

A Cricket Australia spokesperson said: “As part of our testing procedures, we are PCR testing players, their families and our support staff daily. Unfortunately, Travis returned a positive Covid-19 result earlier today. Thankfully, he is asymptomatic at this stage. We anticipate that he will be available to play in the fifth men’s Ashes Test in Hobart.

“We are grateful to our exceptional medical staff for all the work they have done throughout this series and we will continue to work with and support the players, their families and staff from both teams.”

Mitchell Marsh, Nic Maddinson and Josh Inglis have joined the Australian squad as additional cover as a precautionary measure, although Usman Khawaja appears most likely to replace Head in the XI.

On Friday, there was a huge jump in confirmed Covid-19 cases in Sydney, were the fourth Test will be played, with 21,151 infections diagnosed up from 12,226 on Thursday.

The Boxing Day Test earlier this week was jeopardized after positive cases within the England camp, while Third Test match referee David Boon tested positive on Thursday.

Australia captain Pat Cummins missed the second Test in Adelaide after being a close contact of a confirmed Covid-19 case.

Head becomes the first player to miss a Test in the Ashes series due to testing positive as Covid-19 closes in on the series.

Draymond Green has questioned the NBA as he felt the Denver Nuggets will gain an advantage after the cancellation of their clash with the Golden State Warriors.

The Warriors were set to face Denver in the second of a two-game showdown on Friday, but a coronavirus outbreak within Michael Malone's camp has forced the game to be called off.

The Nuggets were left without the necessary eight players for the clash to go ahead, while coach Malone entered the league's health and safety protocols on Thursday along with other staff members, including two assistant coaches, according to reports.

On the same day, forwards Jeff Green and Zeke Nnaji and guard Bones Hyland had also entered protocols, with injuries to several Nuggets players leaving them short-handed.

But Warriors forward Green, who was absent due to protocols for Tuesday's 89-86 loss to the Nuggets, was left frustrated by the postponement as he thinks his side will be disadvantaged by the decision.

"How do you continue to cancel games when you've implemented rules to prevent this from happening?" Green posted to Twitter. "Is that not a competitive advantage for other teams?

"The guys we didn't have due to the protocol list played no role in Tuesday's loss? Pick a side but don't straddle the fence.

"So when the game is rescheduled (which will probably take a day away from our "break"), we will play them at full strength... But they got to sneak a win when we weren't at full strength, only two days ago??? Let's make it make some sense here."

It is the 11th game to be postponed this season for coronavirus-related issues, though Green is worried about the scheduling issues it may cause.

The Golden State star added: "Not to mention, this will more than likely add a back to back to our schedule, which is also advantage Denver."

In Malone's absence, assistant coach David Adelman will reportedly serve as acting head coach for the Nuggets.

Malone is the seventh NBA coach to enter the protocols, joining Doc Rivers (Philadelphia), Frank Vogel (Lakers), Monty Williams (Phoenix), Billy Donovan (Chicago), Chauncey Billups (Portland) and Mark Daigneault (Oklahoma City).

The Warriors are next due to be in action against the Utah Jazz on Sunday when Denver face the Houston Rockets.

Diego Simeone and Antoine Griezmann are among five new positive cases of coronavirus at Atletico Madrid.

Midfielders Koke and Hector Herrera and Portugal star Joao Felix also returned positive results in the club's latest round of testing.

The Spanish champions said all five are asymptomatic and isolating at home.

COVID-19 infections have been recorded at several LaLiga clubs in recent days, with Barcelona having had 10 positive tests this week alone.

On Wednesday, Real Madrid confirmed Thibaut Courtois, Eduardo Camavinga, Federico Valverde and Vinicius Junior had all tested positive for the virus, while Sevilla recorded five positives during the short mid-season break in Spain.

Valencia face Espanyol on Friday before most sides return to action on Sunday, with Atletico taking on high-flying neighbours Rayo Vallecano at the Wanda Metropolitano.

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