Australian Open more important than any player: Nadal on Djokovic

Ahead of the start of the first Grand Slam on Monday, Nadal told reporters at Melbourne Park: "Australian Open will be a great Australian Open with or without him."

Nadal said he respected Djokovic "as a person, of course, and as an athlete, without a doubt". (File Photo)   -  AP

Rafael Nadal took a swipe at rival Novak Djokovic on Saturday as the world number one fights deportation from Australia, saying: "The Australian Open is much more important than any player."

Ahead of the start of the first Grand Slam on Monday, Nadal told reporters at Melbourne Park: "Australian Open will be a great Australian Open with or without him."

READ: Djokovic entangles sponsors in Australian Open vaccine uproar

Djokovic is still in the draw to defend his title but faces deportation from the country before then after the Australian government cancelled his visa for a second time, calling him a threat to public order.

The long-running saga over whether the unvaccinated Serbian can stay in the country has overshadowed the first Grand Slam of the year, where Djokovic and Nadal would both be trying to become the first man to win 21 majors.

Nadal said he respected Djokovic "as a person, of course, and as an athlete, without a doubt".

But the Spaniard added: "I really respect him, even if I don't agree with a lot of the things that he did the last couple of weeks."

And he said that the controversy had dragged on too long.

"I think the situation have been too far. Honestly I'm a little bit tired of the situation because I just believe that it's important to talk about our sport, about tennis," Nadal said.

However, third seed Alexander Zverev said the Serb had been treated unfairly and might have been used as a political pawn by Australian authorities.

"I don't think he would have travelled here just by luck without him thinking he would be able to play, with him having the right authorisation to be in the country," said the German.

Fourth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas said the situation had taken the spotlight away from tennis.

"I won't lie. It has been pretty much on every news outlet the last couple of weeks," the Greek said at Melbourne Park, two days before the tournament starts on Monday.

"Not enough tennis has been talked about in the last couple of weeks, which is a shame." said Tsitsipas

Australian Open women's champion Naomi Osaka empathised with Djokovic's predicament, "I think it's an unfortunate situation. He's such a great player and it's kind of sad that some people might remember in this way," said the Japanese 13th seed.

"I know what it's like to kind of be in his situation in a place that you're getting asked about that person, to just see comments from other players, it's not the greatest thing. Just trying to keep it positive." she said.

Credits-REUTERS

 

 

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