It should have been a promising start to the sporting year.

January 1, 2022, a warm summer night in Sydney, thousands of enthusiastic spectators in the stands, down on the tennis court of world number one Novak Djokovic and world number eight Casper Ruud, who are scheduled to compete with their country team at the ATP Cup.

The Australians believed in this appearance of normality until Christmas, despite two great imponderables in the calculation. One is the virus variant Omikron, which is increasingly troubling the world, as also shown by the number of infected athletes and therefore canceled games in Europe and the USA. The other unknown is Djokovic, who leaves the world puzzled as to whether he is vaccinated and therefore even allowed to travel to Australia and play tennis. If the signs are not deceptive, the Serb will forego the trip, and that allows conclusions to be drawn about his vaccination status.

Djokovic is training in Belgrade and will "99 percent" forego a start at the ATP Cup, according to a report in the Serbian newspaper "Blic" after information from the tennis professional's environment.

That in turn puts his participation in the Australian Open, which starts in mid-January, into question.

Who is that surprised?

Djokovic is still on the registration list at the first season highlight.

But those who have taken his tirades about the media criticism of his vaccination secrecy ("propaganda") and his father's settlement with the requirements of the Australian health authority ("blackmail") seriously believe in Djokovic's trip to Australia as little as in the appearance of Santa Claus on New Year.

In fact, the more esoteric Djokovic apparently goes so far as to forego possible new records: the tenth triumph at the Australian Open and the 21st Grand Slam tournament victory. Alone against the rest of the world, this attitude made Djokovic strong on the pitch; in a health crisis, this combat mode is a weak setting.

Recent developments show that Australian border guards would do well not to let incorrigible people into the country. The Omikron variant is spreading around Melbourne, and a number of tennis professionals have been infected in the past few days and therefore have to stay outside for the time being: Rafael Nadal, his trainer Carlos Moyá, the Canadian Denis Shapovalov, the Swiss Belinda Bencic and the Tunisian Ons Jabeur caught the corona virus will probably settle in shortly before Christmas at the show tournament in Abu Dhabi and are in quarantine until further notice.

Who knows what Omikron will do in the future.

Football games are already being canceled in the English Premier League and basketball games in the American NBA, and the NHL has interrupted its ice hockey season because of many virus cases.

Who can still bet today that the handball European championships in Hungary and Slovakia in January will go smoothly and that the Olympic Winter Games in Beijing in February will go according to plan?

Interruption or even abort instead of departure, this threatens to become the warning sign of the coming months.

That there is a stubborn tennis player would be the smallest evil.