Australian Open: Rafa Nadal claims Novak Djokovic could have competed ‘without a problem’

The world number one has been denied entry into the country due to visa issues.

Novak Djokovic (Photo by Juan Naharro Gimenez/Getty Images for Lexus)
Novak Djokovic (Photo by Juan Naharro Gimenez/Getty Images for Lexus)
Novak Djokovic (Photo by Juan Naharro Gimenez/Getty Images for Lexus)

Rafael Nadal has claimed that Novak Djokovic could have competed in this year’s Australian Open “without a problem” if he truly wanted to.

The Serbian has been embroiled in a dramatic saga with Australian authorities over his unvaccinated status heading into the tournament, but had looked set to compete after being granted an exemption that would have allowed him to enter the country. Currently, no unvaccinated travellers are permitted to enter Australia.

But after arriving in Melbourne it became apparent that Djokovic’s visa application had been completed incorrectly, and the 34-year-old was denied entry into the country.

What is Djokovic’s situation?

The world number one has been vocal in his reluctance to receive a vaccination for Covid-19, and remains unvaccinated at the time of writing.

Current rules state that any traveller arriving into Australia must have had the jab, however, and as a result there was widespread uncertainty over whether or not Djokovic would be able to compete in this year’s Open.

Australian authorities went on to grant the 34-year-old exemption on the grounds of an undisclosed medical reason - a move which caused outrage across the country.

Djokovic arrived in Melbourne on January 5th ahead of the tournament, but upon entering the country, Australian Border Force were unsatisfied with his visa request after noticing a mistake on his application.

Subsequently, officials held the tennis star at the airport for a period before taking the decision to overturn his visa.

Djokovic is now being held in a government detention hotel, and is expected to be deported on Monday, with his lawyers having lodged an urgent appeal against the decision in the meantime.

Rafael Nadal. (Photo by Graham Denholm/Getty Images)
Rafael Nadal. (Photo by Graham Denholm/Getty Images)
Rafael Nadal. (Photo by Graham Denholm/Getty Images)

What has Nadal said on the matter?

When asked about Djokovic’s situation, Nadal - as quoted by journalist Ben Rothenberg on Twitter - said: “Of course what’s happening is not good for no one in my opinion. But I can’t have a clear opinion on everything because I don’t have all of the details, honestly.

“Seems some rough situation, but at the end of the day the only thing that I can say is we have been going through very challenging times and a lot of families have been suffering a lot during the last two years with all the pandemic.

“I mean, it’s normal that the people in Australia get very frustrated with the case because they have been going through a lot of very hard lockdowns, and a lot of people were not able to come back home.

“From my point of view, that’s the only thing that I can say. I believe in what the people who know about medicine say, and if the people say that we need to get vaccinated, we need to get the vaccine. That’s my point of view.

“I went through Covid. I have been vaccinated twice. If you do this, you don’t have any problem to play here. That’s the only clear thing.

“The rest of the things, I don’t want to have or to give to you an opinion that I don’t have the whole information on. The only clear thing for me is if you are vaccinated, you can play in the Australian Open and everywhere, and the world, in my opinion, have been suffering enough to not follow the rules.”

He added: “I don’t encourage no one [to get vaccinated]. I feel everyone have to do whatever feels good for them. But there are rules, and if you don’t want to get the vaccine, then you can have some troubles. That’s the thing”.

Asked if he felt sorry for Djokovic, the Spaniard responded: “I don’t have an opinion on that. I think that if he wanted, he would be playing here in Australia without a problem. He made his own decisions, and everyone is free to make their own decision, but then there are some consequences.

“Of course I don’t like the situation that is happening. In some way I feel sorry for him. But at the same time, he knew the conditions since a lot of months ago, so he makes his own decision.”

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