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Rafael Nadal insists tennis rival Novak Djokovic must take ‘responsibility’ after Australia deportation


Tennis rivals Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal (Pictures: Getty/Australian Open)

Rafael Nadal sympathises with Novak Djokovic but insists his tennis rival must take ‘responsibility’ after being deported from Australia and missing the first Grand Slam of the year.

World number one Djokovic was deported on Sunday after losing a last-ditch court bid to stay in the country.

The Serbian star was controversially granted a medical exemption to enter Australia but he was detained upon arrival and his visa revoked for not meeting federal coronavirus requirements.

A judge overturned that decision but the government and Immigration Minster Alex Hawke stepped in to cancel the visa again, saying it was in the public interest.

Djokovic’s legal team challenged the decision for a second time but three judges upheld the verdict a day before the Australian Open started, meaning the 34-year-old was not given the chance to defend his title in Melbourne and was instead deported.

At the start of this 10-day saga, Nadal criticised Djokovic for refusing to get vaccinated ahead of the new tennis season and the Spaniard addressed his rival’s deportation after his first-round win over American Marcos Giron.

‘By the way, I’m quite tired of that subject,’ said Nadal, who is level with Djokovic on 20 Grand Slam titles.

World number one Djokovic was deported after a 10-day saga (Picture: AP)

‘When he won the first trial I said here that the justice had spoken. Yesterday the decision was different. I will never be against what the justice says.

‘What I believe is it would be better for the sport to have all the best players here, including Djokovic. But another thing happened. I think the situation is very clear now.

‘[I’ve] always had a good relationship with my rivals. Life is better that way. With Novak it’s been like that all my life. I wish him all the best.

‘The situation was a mess and he wasn’t the only one who did things the wrong way. But he is one of the responsibles too [sic].’

Former Australian Open champion Nadal produced a dominant display to beat Giron 6-1 6-4 6-2 in his opening match in Melbourne.

Nadal impressed in his opening match at the Australian Open (Picture: Getty)

Nadal, 35, is bidding to eclipse Djokovic and Roger Federer and become the most successful men’s player of all time with 21 Grand Slam titles.

‘I have had very challenging months, tough moments and a lot of doubts,’ said Nadal, who is making his return to Grand Slam tennis after a five-month layoff with a foot injury.

‘You never know when you come back from injuries – things are difficult and you go day by day. But I’m staying positive. I won three matches and a title here last week.’

Elsewhere, Wimbledon finalists Matteo Berrettini overcame illness to beat Brandon Nakashima, Canadian star Denis Shapovalov overcome Laslo Djere and 10th seed Hubert Hurkacz defeated Egor Gerasimov.

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