MELBOURNE (REUTERS) - The Australian government's decision to cancel Novak Djokovic's visa for a second time on Friday (Jan 14) will shake up the Australian Open draw and could hand "Big Three" rival Rafa Nadal a boost in the race for the Grand Slam record.
Top seed and defending champion Djokovic had been bracketed to play fellow Serb Miomir Kecmanovic in the first round during the draw on Thursday.
However, unless Djokovic successfully overturns the government's decision for a second time through the courts, his place at the top of the draw will be taken by Russian fifth seed Andrey Rublev.
The 17th seed Gael Monfils, who had been bracketed to play unseeded Argentinian Federico Coria, will move into Rublev's original slot and take on Italian Gianluca Mager in the first round.
Kazakh world No. 35 Alexander Bublik, who had been drawn to play a qualifier, will now move into Monfils' initial spot and play Coria.
The vacant spot in the draw will be decided after qualifying.
Djokovic's withdrawal could mean he loses the world No. 1 ranking if second seed Daniil Medvedev or third seed Alex Zverev win the tournament.
It could also prove crucial in the all-time Grand Slam titles race, with Djokovic sharing the record of 20 championships with the absent Roger Federer and Nadal.
Sixth-seed Nadal may be among the most pleased with Djokovic's withdrawal.
The Spanish great would have had to meet nine-time champion Djokovic in the semi-finals if the tournament progressed according to seeding.
Though a fine player, Rublev would seem a more manageable obstacle for Nadal, who won his sole Australian Open title in 2009 but made finals in 2012, 2014, 2017 and 2019.
Medvedev was rated second favourite by bookmakers behind Djokovic until the Serb's visa cancellation.
The Russian, who beat Djokovic in the US Open final to win his maiden Grand Slam title, will likely be favourite when the tournament starts on Monday.