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15 Jan, 2022 15:11

Russian ace Medvedev questions Djokovic Australia banishment

The world number two says that Djokovic should be allowed play if his medical exemption over taking a Covid vaccine was legitimate
Russian ace Medvedev questions Djokovic Australia banishment

Australian Open contender Daniil Medvedev has admitted that any country can deny entry to a foreign national but says he has questions about the legal basis for Australia's impending deportation of Novak Djokovic.

Even if he doesn't hit a single serve in the first Grand Slam event of 2022, the specter of the world's top-ranked player will loom large over the Australian Open.

With the first match of the event now just hours away and Djokovic's very participation still awaiting final clarification in court, the rest of the field have been hit with questions from a global media eager to divine their thoughts on the first major sporting scandal of 2022. 

Rafael Nadal, who is tied on a record 20 Grand Slam title wins alongside Djokovic and Roger Federer, offered criticism of his rival, hinting that Djokovic has been the architect of his own undoing due to his refusal to get vaccinated against Covid-19.

Medvedev, the second seed and arguably the one player with the most to benefit from Djokovic's absence, offered a different take.

The Russian, who was defeated by the Serb in the 2021 final in Melbourne, said that Djokovic's medical exemption should be respected if it was made for legitimate reasons.

"I want to say about Novak’s situation that we’re in Australia, it’s their rules. But from what I know, again, if he has a valid exemption to be in this country and to do what he wants, then he should play," argued Medvedev.

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

The exemption, at least by the judgement of Australian immigration authorities, was not sufficient to gain entry to a country in which all visitors are expected to be double-vaccinated against Covid-19.

The entire episode, though, has blurred a line between public health and public politics, prompting Medvedev to question the motivations of the heated dispute.

"I know yesterday the Prime Minister [Scott Morrison], let’s say, said no. I didn’t really read anywhere why.

"That’s what interests me to know, the reason. Is it just he said, 'I don’t want [Djokovic in the country]'? Is there a real legal reason behind this?"

That is a rhetorical which will finally be decided by a court this weekend.

Medvedev faces Swiss Henri Laaksonen in his opening match on Tuesday. The layout of the draw means that the player who beat Djokovic to win the final Grand Slam of 2021, the US Open, could face the only man above him again in the Australian Open final.

The tournament runs from January 17-30 2022.