The luckiest loser in sport: How world No.150 is now bizarrely at the top of the Australian Open draw as Novak Djokovic is deported – and how he never even dreamed of playing tennis
- Italian who wanted to be a Formula 1 driver is now making tennis headlines
- Turned professional in 2010 and reached career-high rank of No.76 in 2020
- His career earnings are good, but small change compared to Djokovic’s
Salvatore Caruso had long dreamed he would be making a sporting splash in Melbourne – but hoped it would be on the F1 circuit at Albert Park, not on court at the Australian Open.
The unheralded Italian who once dreamed of being a Formula 1 driver has been thrust into the spotlight as the replacement in the Australian Open draw for the deported Novak Djokovic.
On hearing the name Salvatore Caruso, many will have thought ‘wasn’t he an opera singer?’ No, that was Enrico Caruso.
Salvatore is world No.150 ranked tennis player who turned pro in 2010 after the F1 ambitions fizzled out.
Salvatore Caruso seems to be proclaiming himself on top of the world, and why not, he just made it to the Australian Open because Novak Djokovic got booted out of Australia
Caruso comes into the main draw as a ‘lucky loser’ to replace Djokovic at the Australian Open after the Serb’s visa was cancelled for a second time and he flew back to Europe.
The Italian, who earlier his month was playing a satellite tour event in Bendigo, made it to the final stage of the Open qualifiers, but lost 6-4 6-3 to Japanese player Taro Daniel.
And that would normally have been that for Caruso. Game, set and match. Finito.
But he knew that should Djokovic be deported and not take his place in the tournament, he would be the man to benefit with a slot in the main draw.
And now Caruso finds himself in the extraordinary position of playing on a feature court on Monday night.
As fate would have it, he is playing Djokovic’s Serb compatriot Miomir Kecmanovic, who has said he and his fellow countryman will be striving to avenge Djokovic with a strong performance in Melbourne.
In an Instagram post written in Serbian, Kecmanovic said the other Serb players on tour are ‘indignant and disappointed’ in how the Djokovic deportation was handled, and said they would ‘make additional efforts’ to ‘avenge (their) best representative’.
Caruso turned professional in 2010 and reached a career-high ranking of No.76 late in 2020.
Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic walks in Melbourne Airport before boarding a flight, after the Federal Court upheld a government decision to cancel his visa to play in the Australian Open, in Melbourne, Australia, January 16, 2022
His career prize money is US$1,718,446 (AU$2.38million). Not bad by any stretch, but little more than chump change to the likes of Djokovic.
At the very least Caruso will collect $103,000 as a first-round loser at Melbourne Park.
World No.3 Alexander Zverev’s clash with Daniel Altmaier will now be played on Rod Laver Arena on Monday night after women’s world No.1 Ash Barty’s tussle with Lesia Tsurenko.
Salvatore Caruso gets some sunshine to prepare for the heat of the Australian Open
Salvatore Caruso of Italy hits a return to Kei Nishikori of Japan during their match in Flushing Meadows, New York, USA, 31 August 2021
Cristian Garin, Gael Monfils, Lorenzo Sonego, Cam Norrie and Sam Querrey are among the players who could benefit from Djokovic’s exit, given they were potentially going to face the 20-time grand slam winner.
Matteo Berrettini will be the biggest beneficiary of all if he lives up to his seventh seed billing, with Djokovic’s absence making his path to the semi-finals much smoother.
But Australians love an underdog, and Caruso might just be the biggest underdog ever seen in the Australian Open.
REACTION FROM DJOKOVIC’S SUPPORTERS TO DEPORTATION
His father, Srdjan Djokovic: ‘The assassination attempt on the best sportsman in the world is over, 50 bullets to Novak’s chest – after all, he gives support to a young 17-year-old player, so that’s Nole, a man, a brother, see you in Paris.’
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic: ‘You saw in the pointless court proceeding how much the prosecution lied.
‘They are simply lying. They say there are fewer than 50 per cent vaccinated people in Serbia and officially the number is 58 per cent.
‘Don’t forget that’s higher than in many European Union countries. That was a pointless argument, but that’s possible in Orwellian performances.’
French tennis star Alize Cornet: ‘What I know is that Novak is always the first one to stand for the players. No none of us stood for him. Be strong.’
Nick Kyrgios: Posted a ‘facepalm’ emoji after the ruling, and has been vocal about how badly he thinks Djokovic has been treated
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