The saga around the possible deportation of Novak Djokovic overshadowed the preview of the Australian Open and disgusted the rest of the tennis players like Rafael Nadal, who noted that the tournament “is much more important than any one player.”
Before the start of the Grand Slam on Monday, the former Spanish world number one assured that “it will be a great Australian Open with or without him.” “If he ends up playing, fine. And if he doesn’t end up playing, that’s what it is,” he asserted.
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The Spaniard, who like Djokovic aspires to win his 21st Grand Slam and break the record they also share with Roger Federer, said he respected the Serbian “as a person, of course, and as an athlete, without a doubt.”
“I really respect him, even if I don’t agree with a lot of things he’s done in the last two weeks,” he insisted. Djokovic is currently being held waiting for the justice to rule on the new deportation attempt by the Australian government, which considers him a threat for not being vaccinated against covid.
Arrived in Australia ten days ago, the Serbian saved a first deportation attempt and since Monday he was free, being able to prepare for the tournament. But on Friday, the government again canceled his visa.
“We are in a situation that has become more complicated than expected, that has gotten involved and that has dragged on over time,” said Nadal. “Honestly, I’m a bit tired of the situation because I think it’s important to talk about our sport.”
“We are facing one of the most important tournaments in the world. There is no one of us more important than sport itself,” said the Spaniard, current number six in the world after several months absent due to injury.
sad and unfortunate situation
The saga around number one in the men’s ranking is overshadowing the rest of the tournament preview and causing controversy on the circuit. The reigning women’s champion, Japan’s Naomi Osaka, called it an “unfortunate situation”.
“He’s a great player and it’s sad that people can remember him this way,” the two-time winner said in Melbourne. World number four Stefanos Tsitsipas slammed the Serb this week, saying he “has played by his own rules” and made “most” players look like idiots. But asked again this Saturday about the issue, the Greek tennis player avoided getting so involved.
“I’m here to talk about tennis, not about Novak Djokovic,” the 23-year-old said. “There hasn’t been enough talk about tennis in the last two weeks, which is a shame,” he said.
The main Australian hope of the men’s draw, Alex de Miñaur, regretted that this controversy was overshadowing the tournament and the rest of the athletes.
“This situation has taken a lot of focus away from us, the competitors. We are here to play the Australian Open,” he protested.
And he also empathized with the discomfort of his compatriots who have lived almost two years under strong restrictions due to the pandemic. “Australians have been through a lot. It’s no secret. They’ve been through a lot,” he said.
“They have made a lot of effort to protect themselves and to protect the borders. When you come, like any other tennis player who wants to come to the country, you have to be vaccinated with two doses,” he emphasized. Another former number one in the world, the British Andy Murray, preferred to remain on the sidelines. “I’m not going to start hitting Novak when he’s already down,” he launched.
A friend of Djokovic, the German Alexander Zverev has been one of the few to defend him, considering that he has been treated like a scapegoat: “He is a great, a world-class superstar, someone to set an example with,” he said No.3 in the world.
“I don’t know much about the case, but if it wasn’t Novak Djokovic, No. 1 in the world and winner of 20 Grand Slam titles, the drama would not have been so great,” he estimated.
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