With the year’s first tennis grand slam fast approaching, the saga surrounding Novak Djokovic’s visa looks set to continue right up to the moment play is scheduled to start on Monday.
While players have been putting together their final preparations ahead of the Australian Open, all the questions have been about the 20-time grand slam champion.
“I think we all want to move on, whatever it is, move on and focus on the cool aspect of starting a slam,” two-time grand slam champion Garbine Muguruza said during a media day.
“I think all this could have been avoided, like we’ve all done, by getting vaccinated, doing all the things we had to do to come here in Australia.
“Everybody knew very clearly the rules. You just have to follow them and that’s it. I don’t think it’s that difficult.”
Muguruza, who reached the final of the Australian Open in 2020, is concerned the ongoing controversy will have a negative impact on the sport’s reputation.
Djokovic is currently being detained by Australian authorities ahead of a court hearing Sunday on his case to stay in the country.
Australia’s immigration minister Alex Hawke revoked the unvaccinated tennis champion’s visa for a second time on Friday, saying his presence in Australia could lead to an “increase in anti-vaccination sentiment” and even incite “civil unrest.”
“I don’t think that this would help the tennis world or the players because at the end it’s a little bit of conflict all the time,” Muguruza added.
“It’s already difficult enough to make the tournaments work and to make the WTA and ATP circuit happen going country by country to be creating all of this news, quite a lot.”
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‘An unfortunate situation’
If Djokovic does manage to compete at this year’s tournament, he will have the opportunity to win a record-breaking 21st men’s grand slam title.
He currently shares the record with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, but the latter says the tournament will still be a success even if the Serb cannot play.
“I tell you one thing, it’s very clear that Novak Djokovic is one of the best players of the history, without a doubt,” Nadal told reporters. “But there is no one player in history that’s more important than an event, no?
“The Australian Open is much more important than any player. If he’s playing finally, OK. If he’s not playing, the Australian Open will be a great Australian Open with or without him. That’s my point of view.”
Djokovic has thanked those who have continued to support him throughout the ordeal but there are some who question whether this situation will tarnish his legacy.
Defending Australian Open champion Naomi Osaka says she has been left saddened by what she has seen. “I think it’s an unfortunate situation,” she told reporters.
“He’s such a great player and it’s kind of sad that some people might remember him in this way.
“But I also think it’s up to not tennis players, it’s up to the government how Australia is deciding to handle it.”
‘It’s their rules’
Daniil Medvedev, ranked 2nd in the world, spoiled Djokovic’s quest of achieving a calendar grand slam – winning all four majors in the same calendar year – in 2021 when the Russian won the US Open final against the Serb.
The pair could meet again in this year’s Australian Open final should both progress that far but Medvedev says the rules of the country must be obeyed.
“I want to say about Novak’s situation that we’re in Australia, it’s their rules,” he told reporters.
“But from what I know, again, if he has a valid exemption to be in this country and to do what he wants, then he should play.
“If the exemption is not valid or something else is not valid, well, any country can deny your entry.”
The Australian Open is set to begin on Monday but whether Djokovic is in the draw remains to be decided by a court.
CNN’s Jill Martin contributed reporting.