Rafael Nadal called Novak Djokovic‘s Covid vaccination controversy in Australia ‘a circus’ and joked that he would prefer that the world No 1 tennis player didn’t play at the upcoming Australian Open.
Djokovic, who is anti-vaccination, was released from Australian immigration detention on Monday after winning a court challenge to remain in the country to pursue his bid for a record 21st Grand Slam title at the Australian Open.
In a hearing today Judge Anthony Kelly today dramatically quashed the decision to revoke his visa after ruling border guards had been ‘unreasonable’ and had not given Djokovic, 34, enough time to appeal.
‘Whether or not I agree with Djokovic on some things, justice has spoken and has said that he has the right to participate in the Australian Open,’ Nadal told Spanish radio Onda Cero on Monday.
‘I think it is the fairest decision to do so, if it has been resolved that way. I wish him the best of luck.’
However, Nadal once again defended vaccination and re-emphasised the importance of getting the jab.
‘The most important institutions in the world say that the vaccine is the way to stop this pandemic and the disaster that we have been living for the last 20 months.’
Rafael Nadal (left) called Novak Djokovic’s Covid vaccination controversy in Australia ‘a circus’; Djokovic (right) was released from Australian immigration detention on Monday after winning a court challenge to remain in the country
Djokovic arrived in the country to compete in the Australian Open holding what he thought was a valid medical exemption to vaccination rules
There were jubilant scenes outside the facility where Djokovic was being held after the world No 1 won an appeal on Monday against the Australian government for tearing up his visa
Djokovic is hoping to enter Australia and compete at the Open – which starts on January 17 – in a bid to become the most-decorated men’s singles player of all time.
The Serb is currently level with Roger Federer and Nadal on 20 Open titles each. Federer is out of this year’s tournament with injury, while Nadal will be competing in Melbourne – he won the Melbourne Summer Set ATP event against Maxime Cressy on Sunday night.
‘On a personal level, I’d much rather he didn’t play,’ Nadal, 35, said, laughing along with his interviewer.
‘It’s sports, many interests move around it, on a general level, at an economic, advertising level. Everything is much better when the best can be playing.’
Djokovic arrived in the country to compete last week holding what he thought was a valid medical exemption to vaccination rules, stating that he had been infected with Covid last month.
But border guards rejected the documents and tore up the visa, with Djokovic thrown into detention alongside refugees while he waited for his appeal to come before the courts.
Today, the Australian government was ordered to release the tennis ace within half an hour of the ruling, pay his court costs and return his passport an personal belongings.
But Christopher Tran, who was leading the government’s case, warned that immigration minister Alex Hawke may use his personal powers to revoke Djokovic’s visa – a decision that could also see the athlete banned from the country for three years.
The Serbian star’s exemption stated he had been infected with Covid last month
Yet the nine-time Australian Open champion’s documents were rejected and his visa torn up
Nadal won the Melbourne Summer Set ATP event against Maxime Cressy on Sunday night
Andy Murray, meanwhile, is convinced that, whatever the outcome, there are going to be no winners from the Djokovic saga.
The double Wimbledon champion, who is in Sydney for the final warm-up event ahead of the Australian Open, broke his silence on the tumultuous events surrounding one of his great rivals.
Despite being an outspoken advocate of people getting vaccinated, Murray, 34, has some sympathy for someone born just a week apart from him, who he has known since junior days.
‘I think everyone is shocked by it, to be honest,’ five-time Australian Open finalist Murray told reporters in Australia.
‘I’m going to say two things on it just now. The first thing is that I hope that Novak is OK. I know him well, and I’ve always had a good relationship with him and I hope that he’s OK.
Andy Murray says the uncertainty over Djokovic’s situation ahead of the Australian Open is ‘really bad’ for tennis and claims the scenario has ‘shocked’ the athletes
Djokovic fans wave Serbia flags in support of the tennis star in Melbourne on Monday
‘The second thing, it’s really not good for tennis at all, and I don’t think it’s good for anyone involved. I think it’s really bad.’
Back in October Murray had already expressed the view that Australia was well within its rights to take a strong line on those who did not get jabbed.
‘It would be great if more players got vaccinated,’ he said then. ‘Australia in particular has been very, very strict. The public there have had to endure a painful 18 months or whatever.’