Tim Henman has told Eurosport he believes Novak Djokovic could “thrive” in a potentially “hostile” environment at the 2022 Australian Open.
Djokovic has been at the middle of a storm over the last week after his medical exemption from Covid-19 vaccination rules was denied by Australian border officials.
He spent four days in a quarantine hotel in Melbourne before a judge quashed the decision to deny him entry into Australia.
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He now looks set to defend his Australian Open title next week, although there are claims he provided a false statement about his recent whereabouts in a travel document.
The decision to allow Djokovic to stay in the country despite being unvaccinated has sparked a strong backlash in Melbourne, which in October emerged from one of the world’s longest lockdowns.
And former British No. 1 Henman does not expect him to get much support if he plays the Australian Open.
“I think it will be a very hostile reception,” said Henman, who will be part of Eurosport's coverage of the first Grand Slam of the year.
“We all know what the Australian people have been through over the last couple of years and the hardships of the lockdowns, and I don't think in my opinion Djokovic will be well received when he goes on the court.
“I think that's unfortunate for the tournament. It's a great event in Australia and they've had their challenges over the last couple of years. I hope it's not a cloud that remains over the tournament.
“Knowing Djokovic’s attitude, he seems to thrive within that sort of confrontation though. It's obviously not the ideal preparation to be stuck in a room for four or five days but I'm sure he's very relieved to be out and excited about the opportunity.
“Given his record in Melbourne, having won nine times, he is going to be he's going be very difficult to beat I think.”
Soon after being released from his quarantine hotel, Djokovic posted a picture of himself training on Rod Laver Arena. He has continued to practise with his team ahead of the start of the Australian Open on January 17.
Henman thinks Djokovic’s experience of dealing with “adversity” could be key in helping him prepare for a shot at winning a record-breaking 21st Grand Slam.
“I think the way the draw comes out is important, because it's probably fair to say that he might be a little bit under done for the first couple of rounds, but it's very possible for him to play himself into form if he can come through those early rounds unscathed.
“He can build momentum. He has the experience of his whole career. So dealing with adversity goes with the territory.

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“If you asked me to reflect on the whole episode, I think it was not a good look for anyone, whether that's Tennis Australia, the state of Victoria, or the Australian government, or Djokovic himself.
“I think this could have, and should have been, avoided. And once there's this sort of grey area, and you get lawyers involved, then it's inevitably going to get messy. So yeah, it wasn't a good look for anyone.”
Djokovic’s disrupted preparation could give hope to his rivals as they look to deny him victory in Melbourne for the fourth year in a row.
World No. 2 Daniil Medvedev and world No. 3 Alexander Zverev look as though they will be the leading contenders for the men’s title along with Djokovic.
“I do think Djokovic is the player to beat,” said Henman. “But there's no doubt that he is a little bit more vulnerable with what's gone on.
“Medvedev, for me is the obvious second favourite. He's got a Grand Slam title under his belt. I think these conditions really suit him well and he was in the final last year. And he's very much got the bit between his teeth.

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“But the list is long. It’s great to see [Rafael] Nadal back out there and he obviously won last week in Melbourne and is looking fit healthy and eager. Zverev has been playing better and better. I was impressed with him at the Tour Finals.
“[Stefanos] Tsitsipas has elbow trouble, best of five-set matches, I think that's a definite question mark. [Andrey] Rublev looking for a breakthrough in the in the big event.
“So there's lots of people that you can paint a picture for, but in opposite sides of the draw Djokovic and Medvedev are the two clear favourites for me.”
Nadal has only made it past the quarter-finals of the Australian Open once in the last four years, when he lost to Djokovic in the 2019 final.
But he didn’t drop a set last week as he returned from a five-month injury lay-off to win his first hard-court title in almost two years.
Asked about Nadal’s chances of success in Melbourne, Henman said: “He has the experience, he's had some long layoffs in the past. So you know, those first few rounds are important.
“We often say that you can't win the tournament in the first week, but you can certainly lose it. So he's got to be on his game. But he will be delighted to have got the matches under his belt in the first week of the year and to get another title first week of the year is great for his confidence.
“You can't write him off. When you look at his seeding position, it will be interesting to see where he comes out in the draw. He will be we'll be definitely looking to avoid a potential quarter-final match-up with Djokovic.”
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