May 23, 2022 8:04 am

The Djokovic scandal: the players ask to return to normality in an Australian Open under the shadow of the number 1

A few hours before the start of Australian Open, Melbourne Park was the scene of Media Day, the day in which several of the figures of the first Grand Slam of 2022 express themselves. They are usually meetings in which the candidates speak individually about their current situation, their expectations, what who hope to meet at the Oceanic Open. But, as expected, the question about Novak Djokovic’s situation came to everyone. A theme that, like a cloak, seems to completely cover the previous championship and seems to have tired the colleagues of the number 1 in the world.

“I tell you one thing. It is more than clear that Novak Djokovic is one of the best players in history, without a doubt. But there is no player that is more important than a tournament or the sport itself. Tennis players come and go, and then other players come. None, including Roger (Federer), Novak, myself, Björn Borg, who was magnificent at the time. Tennis continues. The Australian Open is much more important than any tennis player. If he finally plays, okay. If not, the Open will be just as big, with or without him”, said Rafael Nadal. Living legend and regular opponent of Djokovic in big events, the Spaniard was forceful in his position.

And there was more from the left-hander from Manacor, who aspires to win in Australia for the second time in his history and, like Djokovic, aspires to win his 21st major title: “I think this it has gone too far, it has become more complicated than necessary. The truth is that I’m tired of this situation, because I think that the important thing here is to talk about our sport, tennis. We have had and are having difficult times around the world with the pandemic. I know that tennis has zero importance if we compare it to what we are facing, with this virus. Now, if there is a solution, and that solution is the vaccine, go ahead. We need to be vaccinated, for the good of all. Whether he ends up playing or not doesn’t affect me at all, because I’m focused on mine”.

Nadal, who is not keeping things to himself, went straight to the bone: “I respect Novak as a player and as a person, I wish him the best, I had a good relationship with him throughout our careers, we did important things on the circuit, for our foundations, for charity. We have been together through difficult times. But in this case, there are a lot of questions that need to be answered. And I hope everything clears up soon. Your image? Well, everyone chooses their path. I respect him a lot, even if I disagree with him on some things he did in the last few weeks.”.

The usual preparation of dozens of players for the Australian Open was altered by the case of Djokovic, who is currently detained, waiting for the justice to resolve his situation, with a second deportation attempt by the Australian government, which has already He canceled his visa for the second time and did not hesitate to consider him “a public threat” for his refusal to be vaccinated against Covid. Arrived in Australia, the Serbian avoided a first deportation attempt in a court hearing, and had a few days to train, but this Friday, the government, through the Ministry of Immigration, attacked again and canceled his visa, leaving him at the gates of deportation.

the australian Alex de Miñaur, one of the local figures, also left his opinion: “This whole situation has taken the focus out of the competitors. Because we are here to play, we are ready to compete, we hope to have two good weeks of tennis. Australians have had a lot to overcome, it’s no secret. They have had a very difficult time, they have worked hard to protect themselves and their borders. When you enter the country, like any other tennis player. if you want to come, you have to be double vaccinated. It was up to him, his choices, his judgment.”

To more than one, like Nadal, the subject seems to have tired him. “I am here to talk about tennis. I’m not going to lie to you. (Novak) It’s been pretty much all over the media in the last few weeks. It has received a lot of attention. Lots of people are talking about it. That’s why I’m here to talk about tennis, because tennis hasn’t been talked about enough, and that’s a shame”, evaluated the Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas. In any case, the number 4 in the world had already said his thing a couple of days ago, when he said that “he has played by his own rules” and has made “most” of the players pass for idiots.

The greeting between Novak Djokovic and Federico Coria, after the practice session they held at the Margaret Court Arena this ThursdayMark Baker – AP

The noise that awakens the entire saga of Djokovic also reached the women’s branch of the Open, of course. “I think it’s something that has already taken a long time, we have to leave it behind, and focus on how nice it is to start a Grand Slam. This is a situation that could have been avoided., as almost all of us did, with being vaccinated, doing everything that was appropriate to come to Australia. Everyone knew the rules very well, it wasn’t that difficult. And it is not a conflict that helps the players. I think that it is already quite difficult to hold a tournament, and that the ATP and the WTA go from one place to another to generate this kind of news”, remarked the Spanish Garbiñe Muguruza, champion of the Guadalajara Masters.

On her side, Japan’s Naomi Osaka, the defending champion, noted: “I think it’s an unfortunate situation. Novak is a great player and it’s a bit sad that some people see him this way. But I also think it’s not something that depends on the tennis players, but also on the government, on how Australia decides to handle it.”

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 on the ground,” he launched.

A visitor stops to take a photo of a billboard featuring Serbia's defending champion Novak Djokovic ahead of the Australian Open at Melbourne Park
A visitor stops to take a photo of a billboard featuring Serbia’s defending champion Novak Djokovic ahead of the Australian Open at Melbourne ParkMark Baker – AP

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