Monday, January 24, 2022

Tennis stars react to Novak Djokovic’s saga ahead of Australian Open

While the players are busy in their final preparations ahead of the Australian Open, all the questions are regarding the 20-time Grand Slam champion.

“I think we all want to move on, no matter what, go ahead and focus on the good side of starting a Slam,” two-time Grand Slam champion Garbine Muguruza said during a media day.

“I think all of this could have been avoided, as we have all done, by getting vaccinated, doing everything we had to do to get here in Australia.

“Everyone knew the rules very clearly. You just have to follow them and that’s it. I don’t think it’s that difficult.”

Muguruza, who reached the final of the Australian Open in 2020, is worried that the ongoing controversy will have a negative impact on the reputation of the sport.

Djokovic is currently being detained by Australian authorities ahead of a court hearing on Sunday on his case to stay in the country.

Australia’s Immigration Minister Alex Hawke revoked the tennis champion’s visa for a second time on Friday, saying his presence in Australia could lead to “an increase in anti-vaccination sentiment” and even “civil unrest”. “It could be too.

“I don’t think it will help the tennis world or the players because in the end it’s a little bit of a struggle all the time,” Muguruza said.

“It’s already hard enough to make all this news to make tournaments work and the WTA and ATP circuits country by country.”

READ: Tennis legend Chris Evert is diagnosed with cancer

‘Unfortunate situation’

If Djokovic manages to compete in this year’s tournament, he will have a chance to win a record-breaking 21st men’s Grand Slam title.

He currently shares the record with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, but the latter says the tournament will be a success even if the Serb could not play.

“Let me tell you one thing, it is quite clear that Novak Djokovic is without a doubt one of the best players in history,” Nadal told reporters. “But there isn’t a single player in history who is more important than an event, no?

Novak Djokovic is the 'best player in the history of men's tennis';  But he inherits from a 'complicated' court

“The Australian Open is far more important than any player. If he’s playing in the end, fine. If he’s not playing, the Australian Open will be a great Australian Open, with or without him. That’s my point of view. “

Djokovic has thanked those who have continued to support him throughout the trial, but there are some who question whether the situation will tarnish his legacy.

Defending Australian Open champion Naomi Osaka says she is saddened by what she has seen. “I think it’s an unfortunate situation,” she told reporters.

“He is such a great player and it’s very sad that some people can remember him that way.

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

‘It’s their rules’

Second-ranked Daniil Medvedev in the world spoiled Djokovic’s quest to clinch a calendar Grand Slam – winning all four majors in the same calendar year – in 2021 when the Russian won the US Open final against the Serb.

The pair could meet again in this year’s Australian Open final should the two move on but Medvedev says the country’s rules must be followed.

“What I want to say about Novak’s position is that we are in Australia, it’s his rules,” he told reporters.

“But from what I know, again, if he has a legitimate exemption to stay in this country and do what he wants, he should play.

“If the exemption is not valid or something else is not valid, well, any country can deny your entry.”

The Australian Open is due to start on Monday, but whether Djokovic is in a draw or not will be decided by the court.

CNN’s Jill Martin contributed reporting.

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