Rafael Nadal: The Australian Open is much more important than any player

The Australian Open is more important than one player and will be a big tournament ‘with or without’ Novak Djokovic, according to Rafael Nadal.

The Spaniard has made it clear on several occasions that he disagrees with Djokovic’s resistance to the Covid-19 vaccination and the extent to which his ongoing visa battle has overshadowed the tournament is clearly a frustration for many.

Speaking at his pre-tournament press conference, Nadal said: “It is very clear that Novak Djokovic is one of the best players in history, without a doubt. But there is no a single player in the story that is more important than an event.

“The Australian Open is much more important than any player. If he finally plays, OK. If he doesn’t play, the Australian Open will be a great Australian Open with or without him .”

Djokovic has appealed the decision to revoke his visa for the second time and a hearing will take place on Sunday, the day before his clash with Miomir Kecmanovic in the first round.

Djokovic released a statement earlier this week, admitting he took part in an interview last month when he knew he had tested positive for the virus, and each new development in the saga has drawn huge attention.

Nadal said: “From my point of view, there are a lot of questions that need to be answered. In some ways, I think it will be good if everything is clarified soon.

“Everyone chooses their path. I wish him the best. I really respect him, even if I don’t agree with a lot of things he’s done in the last few weeks.

Stefanos Tsitsipas, who strongly criticized Djokovic in an interview earlier this week, closed the topic on Saturday saying: “Obviously a lot of people talk about it. That’s why I’m here to talk about tennis. We don’t have enough talked about tennis in recent weeks, it’s a shame.

Public opinion in Australia has not been on Djokovic’s side, and Alex De Minaur offered a national perspective saying: “Australians have been through a lot. There is no secret about this. They had a lot of trouble. They have done a lot of work to protect themselves and their borders.

“When you arrive, as well as all the other tennis players, if you wanted to enter the country, you had to be double vaccinated. It was up to him: his choices, his judgement.

Alexander Zverev is good friends with Novak Djokovic (Mark Baker/AP)

Alexander Zverev is usually one of Djokovic’s staunchest supporters on tour and he thinks world number one status has worked against him.

“I don’t know enough about the situation but I think if it wouldn’t be Novak Djokovic, world number one, with 20 Grand Slams, all that, it wouldn’t be such a big drama,” he said. .

“I understand the point of view of the Australian people and the government. The Australian Government and the Victorian Government should have been clear about what is going to happen in advance. I think it’s not very fair for someone to come here and not be able to play.

Zverev, Nadal and Tsitsipas will be among the favorites whether or not Djokovic plays with last year’s runner-up and US Open champion Daniil Medvedev, who would be the top seed in the Serbian’s absence.

Stefanos Tsitsipas during a training session at Melbourne Park
Stefanos Tsitsipas during a training session at Melbourne Park (Mark Baker/AP)

Nadal is playing his first tournament since early August with a foot problem, and his preparations were further disrupted by a bout of Covid last month.

The 35-year-old, who faces American Marcos Giron in the first round, was downed for several days but won his first tournament at Melbourne Park last week.

He said: “I feel happy. If you tell me I’m going to be in my job today a month ago, of course I’ll definitely sign after everything that’s happened.

“I’m just enjoying training and being back and feeling like a professional tennis player again. I’m playing good tennis.

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