The saga around the possible deportation of Novak Djokovic overshadowed the Australian Open preview on Saturday and disgusted the rest of the tennis players such as Rafael Nadal, who pointed out that the tournament "is much more important than any 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 it doesn’t end up playing, it is what it is", he asserted.
The Spaniard, who like Djokovic aspires to win his 21st Grand Slam and break the record they also share with Roger Federer, assured that 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 necessary, that has gotten involved and that has dragged on over time"Nadal opined. "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 none of us more important than sport itself", assured the Spaniard, current number six in the world after several months absent due to injury.
"Sad" Y "unlucky" 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 current women’s champion, the Japanese Naomi Osaka, considered that it was a "unfortunate situation". "He is a great player and it is sad that people can remember him in this way"said the two-time winner in Melbourne.
World number four Stefanos Tsitsipas heavily criticized the Serb this week, considering that "has played by its own rules" and has done "pass for idiots to the majority" of players.
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"said the 23-year-old.
"There hasn’t been enough talk about tennis in the last two weeks, which is a shame", he pointed.
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 pointed.
"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 rock bottom.", 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", affirmed N.3 of the world.
"I don’t know much about the case, but if it wasn’t Novak Djokovic, world No. 1 and winner of 20 Grand Slam titles, the drama would not have been so great", estimated.