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17 Jan, 2022 10:08

Djokovic culpable for ‘mess’ – Nadal

The world number one is partly to blame for his visa saga, his fellow great has reportedly said
Djokovic culpable for ‘mess’ – Nadal

Australian Open contender Rafael Nadal has discussed "justice" after Novak Djokovic was deported from Melbourne because he was not vaccinated against Covid, reportedly adding that his familiar rival is "one of the responsibles".

Amid all the talk of pre-tournament favorite Djokovic winning a record-breaking 21st Grand Slam title, fellow tennis icon Nadal could now reach the same astonishing tally if he wins the Australian Open for only the second time in his outstanding career.

The Spaniard was relieved to return to court after a lengthy absence with a foot injury, and he is said to have admitted feeling some fatigue at being repeatedly asked for his views on Djokovic's visa saga with border authorities and ultimate exile from the tournament he has won nine times.

"When he won the first trial [to avoid his visa being canceled] I said here that justice had spoken," world number five Nadal was quoted as saying by Record after cruising past Marcus Giron in his opening match.

"[Now] the decision [is] different. I will never be against what the justice says. What I believe would be better for the sport would be having all the best players here, including Djokovic. Another thing is what happened. I think the situation is very clear now."

Australian Minister for Immigration Alex Hawke's decision to cancel the top seed and reigning champion's visa for a second time was upheld by a court a day before the tournament started, leaving frustrated Djokovic to take a flight to Dubai rather than defend his title.

Nadal, who has insisted that vaccination is the only way to end the pandemic, was again at pains to emphasize his respect for Djokovic, whose enforced absence has caused bookmakers to position the fifth seed as third-favorite to lift the trophy.

"I have always had a good relationship with my rivals," said Nadal. "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."

Djokovic was deemed a risk to public health as part of requirements by prime minister Scott Morrison's government for entrants to Australia to be vaccinated.

The Serbian superstar had believed he would receive a medical exemption to play because he tested positive for Covid in December 2021.

Nadal has also battled the virus in recent weeks, saying after his straight sets victory that his infection had "physically destroyed" him.

"I had been very sick with Covid and taken days to recover, honestly," he previously said, revealing that he had been bedridden by his illness.

"The feeling was not good during that seven days, especially during the first four days – I felt really hot.

"But after that, day by day, I felt better. I don't know if I have any negative feeling after Covid because I have been outside the tour for such a long time.

"Overall, I feel happy. If you had told me I would be in this position a month ago, I would have signed [up for that]."

Nadal will play world number 126 Yannick Hanfmann in his second-round match at the tournament, which continues until January 30 2022.