ABSENT Novak Djokovic could regain world No1 status next week – even though he cannot play in the US.
The Serbian has received plenty of criticism for withdrawing late from the draw for the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells.
The 20-time Slam champion was told by US immigration officials that he would not be allowed into the country due to him being unvaccinated.
It has left the bottom half of the draw lopsided and opened the door for the likes of new No1 Daniil Medvedev.
Yet the Russian Medvedev – who will be expected to wear yellow-and-blue Ukraine ribbons in matches – might lose his spot as the top male player in the world.
If Medvedev, 26, loses before the quarter-finals, then Djokovic will return to the top of the ATP rankings due to a quirk of the system without striking a ball in anger.
Djokovic, 34, said: “While I was automatically listed in the BNP Paribas Open and Miami Open draw, I knew, given the entry requirements to the US, it would be unlikely I’d be able to travel there.
“But as international Covid regulations are always being amended, I wanted to wait to see if anything would change.
“The CDC confirmed that regulations are not changing which means I will not be playing in the US.
“I know my fans are looking forward to seeing me back playing for them on the tour soon.
“Good luck to everyone who is playing in the US in these great tournaments.”
Grigor Dimitrov, who reached the semifinals last year in the Californian desert, moves into Djokovic’s place in the draw as the No33 seed.
Meanwhile, Alexander Zverev says his expulsion from the Mexican Open was the “biggest mistake of his tennis career” and the “worst moment of his life”.
The Olympic champion will be banned from tennis for eight weeks if he misbehaves in a similar way over the next 12 months.
The German was fined more than £30,000 and forfeited his prize money for violently striking the umpire’s chair in Acapulco.
The world No3 said: “It still is embarrassing for me now. Walking around the locker room, it’s not a nice feeling.
“But we all do mistakes. I’m also a human being, and I can guarantee you I will never act this way again in my life. It was definitely the worst moment of my life.”