Rafael Nadal frustrated as Novak Djokovic visa saga continues to overshadow Australian Open

Rafael Nadal says the Australian Open will still be “great” if Novak Djokovic is kicked out of the tournament, admitting he is “a bit tired” of the controversy surrounding his rival.

Djokovic’s participation in the season-opening major tournament, which kicks off at Melbourne Park on Monday, remains uncertain after his visa was canceled for the second time on Friday night.

The Federal Court will hear his appeal against the cancellation of his visa on Sunday at 9:30 a.m. AEDT.

Nadal says Djokovic is no bigger than the Australian Open.

“[The] The Australian Open is far more important than any player,” he said.

“If he finally plays, OK. If he doesn’t play, [the] The Australian Open will be great, with or without him. It’s my point of view.”

Nadal, who tested positive for COVID-19 last month, said he believed he and Djokovic had a “good relationship”.

But Nadal said the men’s world number one chose “his path” by not getting a COVID-19 shot.

“I wish him all the best. I really respect him, even though I [do] disagree with a lot of things he’s done in the last few weeks,” he said.

Nadal said he hopes the media attention will return to the Australian Open soon.

“Honestly, I’m a bit tired of the situation because I just believe it’s important to talk about our sport, about tennis,” he said.

Men’s world number three Alexander Zverev has admitted he doesn’t know “enough” about Djokovic’s situation.

But Zverev still wondered how much Djokovic had been briefed by government officials in Australia before arriving in Melbourne.

“The Australian government and the Victorian government should have been clear about what is going to happen in advance,” he said.

Men’s world number four Stefanos Tsitsipas, who lost the French Open final to Djokovic last year, said he would also prefer to talk about the next tennis fortnight in Melbourne.

“I’m not going to lie, it’s been pretty much all over the media for the last few weeks,” he said.

“He’s gotten a lot of attention. A lot of people are obviously talking about him. That’s why I’m here to talk about tennis.

“He’s gotten a lot of attention, like I said. Tennis hasn’t been talked about enough in the last two weeks, which is a shame.”

De Minaur ready to focus on tennis

Australian men’s number one Alex De Minaur said he was frustrated with the constant attention given to Djokovic.

“This whole situation has taken a lot of the spotlight away from our competitors,” he said.

“It feels like it takes us away from competitors who just want to start.

“I’m just ready to put it all behind me and focus on my tennis matches, kind of let my tennis do the talking.

“Ultimately tennis is an individual sport and we have all been here in Australia for a while preparing for this tournament.

“We all just want to get on with our own stuff.”

De Minaur himself was sick with COVID-19 last year, his form and ranking slipping as he struggled to fully recover.

The men’s 32nd seed seemed to have little sympathy for Djokovic, saying he had made up his mind not to vaccinate.

“Australians have been through a lot. There’s no secret to that,” de Minaur said.

“They struggled a lot. They did a lot of work to protect themselves and their borders.

“Here we are.”

Defending champion Naomi Osaka was hesitant to speak about Djokovic when asked for his opinion on having his visa revoked.

“Honestly for me, in a way, I don’t really think my thoughts matter,” she said.

“Even though I say what I think, I’ve seen people say one side, I’ve seen people say the other side. I also know that one person’s opinion won’t change anything, it’s just okay create controversy.

“I think it’s an unfortunate situation. He’s such a great player and it’s kind of sad that some people remember it that way.

“But I also think it’s not for the tennis players to decide, it’s for the government to decide how Australia decides to handle it.”

ABC/PAA

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