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15 Jan, 2022 20:13

US player says Djokovic is a ‘political pawn’ as he backs Serb

The embattled world number one is being manipulated by the Australian government over his visa fiasco, according to a former opponent
US player says Djokovic is a ‘political pawn’ as he backs Serb

Leaders are using Novak Djokovic's visa cancelation nightmare as a weapon, an American ex-contender has warned while urging the public that his Covid vaccine row is a ploy – and tennis provocateur Nick Kyrgios agrees with him.

Former world number seven and frequent Djokovic rival Mardy Fish is baffled by the treatment dished out by Australian officials to the world number one, who is awaiting a court hearing on Sunday to decide whether he will be forced to leave the country.

The retired star has urged people to show humanity towards the detained Serbian icon, arguing that the exhaustive row over whether Djokovic should have taken a Covid vaccine to allow him to enter unchallenged is irrelevant in the scheme of what he sees as clear political point-scoring.

Australia has had some of the strictest lockdown rules in the world, and critics of Prime Minister Scott Morrison's administration have claimed that it is making a show of Djokovic to assert its power and push people into taking vaccine shots.

Djokovic insists he was told he would be granted a medical exemption from vaccination requirements because he tested positive for Covid in December.

"I joke a lot on here, but what’s going on with [Djokovic] right now seems ridiculous," said the outspoken Fish on Twitter, tagging in the man he played seven times between 2006 and 2011, losing on each occasion including defeats in two finals.

"Using him as a political pawn. Save the vaxxed and unvaxxed comments. Dude is a human being."

The reigning Melbourne champion spent days in a hotel which contrasted distinctly with the luxuries he is used to, according to reports after he was interviewed by border force bosses for hours upon landing.

While some fellow players have made barbed remarks about the saga, all of the stars who have addressed the controversy appear to agree that Djokovic has not been treated well during a debacle that they feel has been badly-handled by the government.

Australian Minister for Immigration Alex Hawke has now used his powers to cancel Djokovic's visa for a second time, plunging his participation at the tournament into doubt.

The 20-time Grand Slam winner issued a statement this week explaining that his forms had incorrectly said he had not traveled in the two weeks before arriving in Australia because of a mistake by one of his team, adding that it was an error with no malice behind it.

He also said that he had carried out an interview with a journalist after receiving his latest positive test result because he felt obliged to, emphasizing that he still took precautions and isolated in accordance with guidelines afterwards.

Australian tennis badboy Nick Kyrgios, who publicly chastized Djokovic when he organized a tournament at the height of the pandemic which resulted in numerous infections, surprisingly backed Fish's opinion.

The flamboyant home player replied to the tweet by telling Fish his words were "facts".

Temperamental Kyrgios has played down suggestions that he has a fractious relationship with Djokovic because of his previous remarks, praised the likes of three-time Grand Slam title winner Andy Murray for backing the top seed and called on Spanish icon Rafael Nadal to offer greater support over the issue.

"Novak has reached out to me personally over Instagram to say thank you for standing up for him," Kyrgios told his No Boundaries podcast.

"I was not the one he was expecting to go out in the media and have his back. He's obviously feeling quite alienated in all of this and, as a human, it's a dangerous place to be when you feel like the world is against you and you can't do anything right and all he wants to do is come here and play tennis.

"I think on a human level he needs some support from other tennis players, so he's just asking for a bit of understanding.

"This Hawke guy is like, 'He's a threat to our borders' and I'm just like, 'Well no, he's not'.

"We're treating him like he's a weapon of mass destruction at the moment but he's literally here to play tennis."

Tournament outsider Kyrgios has warned that Djokovic will be more motivated than ever to retain his title.

"I honestly want him to f*cking win the event – I think it would be f*cking awesome," Kyrgios claimed. "I want to walk around Melbourne with Novak’s mask on my face."