Salvatore Caruso once dreamed of being a Formula 1 driver, but he was thrust into the fast lane in a completely different way on Sunday as the lucky loser to replace Novak Djokovic at the Australian Open.
Caruso's bid to earn direct entry into the Australian Open fell flat in the final stage of the qualifiers, losing 6-4 6-3 to Taro Daniel.
It meant barring injury, illness, or a Djokovic deportation, Caruso would have missed the Australian Open.
But the world No.150 now finds himself in the extraordinary position of being at the top of the Open draw after Djokovic failed to overturn the decision to cancel his visa.
Caruso turned professional in 2010 and reached a career-high ranking of No.76 late in 2020.
Djokovic was due to open his Open defence on Monday night against fellow Serb Miomir Kecmanovic on Rod Laver Arena on Monday night.
Caruso, a 29-year-old Italian, will now step in to fill the void in a switch that has thrown that part of the Australian Open wide open.
The Australian Open reacted to Djokovic's exit by switching the Caruso-Kecmanovic match from Rod Laver Arena to Show Court 2.
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.
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 on a direct collision course with 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.
Australian Associated Press
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