Rafael Nadal and other tennis stars weigh in on the Novak Djokovic saga

Rafael Nadal’s first Grand Slam match in more than seven months is on the horizon, he is returning from a painful left foot problem that limited him to a tournament in the second half of last season, and he got COVID-19 in December.

Lots to talk about, right? After all, this is the owner of 20 major championships and one of the most significant figures in tennis history. His mere presence at a press conference before the tournament at the Australian Open today was newsworthy – or rather, would have been on pretty much every other occasion.

Oh, yes, the run-up to this Australian Open has acted and seems to continue to be about Novak Djokovic and his hopes of defending the title at a vaccination-requiring competition while not vaccinated against coronavirus. So Nadal’s words and body language spoke to many in the tennis world as he shrugged, exhaled and said this about his longtime rival will-he-play-or-will-he-not-saga: “Honestly, I” I am a little tired of the situation. “

Watch all matches, sets and matches in the Australian Open that stream ad-free, live and on demand on Stan Sport

“The Australian Open is much more important than any player,” Nadal said. “If he plays, finally, OK. If he does not play, the Australian Open will be a great Australian Open, with or without him. That is my view.”

Unlike Djokovic, Nadal has got his shots. The same goes for a total of 97 of the Top 100 on the ATP rankings and 96 of the Top 100 on the WTA rankings.

“All of this could have been avoided, as we have all done, by being vaccinated, doing all the things we had to do to get here to Australia,” said double-major Garbine Muguruza, a 28- year old from Spain who is seed No. 3 in the women’s bracket. “Everyone knew the rules very clearly. You just have to follow them, and that’s it. I do not think it is that difficult.”

LIVE UPDATES: Day two of the fifth ash test between Australia and England

READ MORE: Tsitsipas says Djokovic makes vaccinated stars ‘look like fools’

READ MORE: Langer called for walking away after the Ashes series

So far, the No. 1 seeded Djokovic is scheduled to play on Monday on day one of the year’s first major tournament, where both he and Nadal could claim a 21st Grand Slam trophy to break the men’s mark they currently have. shares with Roger Federer.

Before then, however, Djokovic – and it seems everyone else with any interest in tennis or the latest developments related in some way to the pandemic – will wait to see what happens at a court hearing tomorrow after his appeal. in a second. revocation of his visa by the Australian Government.

He could be expelled.

“I do not want to lie: it has been in pretty much all the news media the last few weeks. It has received a lot of attention. Many people are obviously talking about it,” said Stefanos Tsitsipas, a 23-year-old from Greece who is seeded no. .4 at Melbourne Park and was second to Djokovic at last year’s French Open. “That’s why I’m here to talk about tennis … there’s not been enough talk about tennis in the last few weeks, which is a shame.”

Usually, the Australian Open – known as the “Happy Slam” – acts as a sort of festive launch of a new tennis season.

Players get a chance to rest, recharge and prepare during the low season. They have a clean, or mostly clean, board, depending on whether they played any tune-up matches. Some show up with wrinkles in their playing style. Some arrive with a new coach, eager to see how the relationship can work out.

“It feels like it’s taking away from us competitors who just want to start. We’re just eager to go out and compete. The Australian Open is always an incredible event, my home slam, my favorite tournament,” said No. 32- seeded Alex de Minaur, a 22-year-old Australian. “Ultimately, tennis is an individual sport and we’re all been here in Australia for a while and getting ready for this tournament. We all just want to get on with our own things.”

History lines and areas of intrigue tend to be plentiful in Melbourne. As it is, this time was destined to be a little different, given the notable players who are absent for some reason, including Federer, Serena Williams and Venus Williams.

Rafael Nadal’s top game from the ATP Melbourne Summer Series

But Nadal’s return to the Slam action for the first time since a semi-final loss to Djokovic in Paris in June is a big deal.

The same defends Australian Open champion Naomi Osaka’s arrival with what she says is a fresh sight after taking two mental breaks in 2021, including one that ended her season in September.

Given Osaka’s honest revelations about depression and anxiety, it made sense today when she broke out in a full laugh. When she joked around with journalists. When she looked as good as it could be.

Like Nadal did. He has said he is excited to be back on tour. Has practiced well. He mentioned his “positive attitude” and “work ethic”.

Only when the subject was Djokovic did Nadal sound less enthusiastic.

“I wish him all the best. I really respect him,” Nadal said of someone he has played on a tour record 58 times since 2006, “although I (do) disagree with many things he did last time. couple of weeks.”

For a daily dose of the best news and exclusive content from Wide World of Sports, subscribe to our newsletter per. by clicking here!

Give a Comment