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Rafa's brilliant, brutal reality check for Djokovic as Serbian wins stay of execution

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6th January, 2022
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Rafael Nadal was in winning action on Thursday as his big rival Novak Djokovic will be cooling his heels in a quarantine hotel until Monday, having been thwarted in his attempt to enter Australia for the Australian Open.

And after the Spaniard, who like the Serbian has won 20 Grand Slam titles, swept aside Ricardas Berankis to move into the final eight at the Melbourne Summer Set, Nadal was quizzed about the big story of the day.

While saying he didn’t want to tell Djokovic what to do, he made it clear he had little sympathy for the Serb’s decision to not get vaccinated against COVID.

“The only thing that I can say is I believe in what the people who know about medicine says, and if those people say that we need to get vaccinated, we need to get the vaccine,” Nadal said.

“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.

“The world in my opinion has been suffering enough to not follow the rules.

“I think if he wanted, he would be playing here in Australia without a problem. He went through another – he made his own decisions, and everybody is free to take their own decisions, but then there are some consequences.

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“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 a lot of months ago, so he makes his own decision.”

Nadal is a popular figure in Australia and that will be strengthened with his words for his hosts of the next few weeks.

“It’s normal that the people here in Australia get 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,” he said.

Djokovic, a nine time champion, is challenging the Australian Border Force’s decision to cancel his visa by applying for a judicial review.

Djokovic received support from two-time Open quarter-finalist Tennys Sandgren who suggested Australia should be stripped of hosting the grand slam tournament following the treatment of Djokovic.

The unvaccinated American didn’t enter this year’s tournament, saying he didn’t meet grounds for a medical exemption.

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World No.1 Djokovic was granted such an exemption to play after his application was approved by two separate independent panels of medical experts.

But his case didn’t meet border entry requirements with the nine-time Australian Open champion sent to a quarantine hotel to await deportation.

Sandgren said that Djokovic, gunning for a record 21 grand slam titles, was a victim of politics within Australia.

“Just to be crystal clear here. 2 separate medical boards approved his exemption. And politicians are stopping it. Australia doesn’t deserve to host a grand slam,” Sandgren tweeted of the Serbian superstar.

While Sandgren was outspoken in his views there was a muted response to the visa cancellation among the peers of the polarising Djokovic.

Former Australian player Rennae Stubbs called the saga a “massive shit show”.

“I am looking forward to Novak’s statement I would say he is f****** pissed right now,” she posted on Instagram.

“I would be ropeable if I was him. Also the other lesson is, get vaccinated.”

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The ATP said last month that 95 per cent of the top 100 players on the tour were fully vaccinated while the women’s tour said 85 per cent of its players had had a double jab.

Earlier, Djokovic has started legal action to overturn a decision to deport him from Australia following the cancellation of his visa.

Lawyers for Djokovic fronted the Federal Court in Melbourne on Thursday, applying for a judicial review of the visa cancellation decision by Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews.

Judge Anthony Kelly later adjourned the court until Monday.

Djokovic remains locked in a quarantine hotel as he tries to keep alive his quest for a record 21st grand slam title at Melbourne Park later this month.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison revealed that Djokovic had tried to enter the country without a medical exemption from vaccination.

The Serbian superstar claimed he had such an exemption, but it appears this was only granted for the tournament and not entry into Australia.

Morrison said entry to Australia required double vaccination or a medical exemption, which Djokovic did not have, and that “rules are rules”.

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“People must be fully vaccinated as defined by ATAGI (Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation) to gain quarantine-free entry into Australia,” he said on Thursday.

“That means people who do not meet the definition will not be approved for quarantine-free entry.

“I am advised that such an exemption was not in place and as a result he is subject to the same rule as anyone else.”

Two-time Open quarter-finalist and outspoken anti-vaxxer Tennys Sandgren said the treatment of the world’s top male player meant Australia didn’t deserve to host a grand slam.

The American himself didn’t enter this year’s tournament, saying he didn’t meet grounds for an exemption.

DECEMBER 03: Novak Djokovic of Serbia in action against Marin Cilic (not seen) of Croatia during 2021 Davis Cup Tennis Tournament semi-final match at Madrid Arena on December 03, 2021 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Burak Akbulut/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

(Photo by Burak Akbulut/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

“Just to be crystal clear here. 2 separate medical boards approved his exemption. And politicians are stopping it. Australia doesn’t deserve to host a grand slam,” Sandgren tweeted.

Following the border force decision it emerged Tennis Australia boss Craig Tiley was repeatedly warned that a recent COVID-19 infection wasn’t grounds for a medical exemption for unvaccinated players.

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It’s been revealed that the Department of Health sent Tiley two letters in November stipulating that a COVID infection in the past six months would not satisfy entry requirements for unvaccinated players.

It’s believed the world No.1 men’s player applied for an exemption on those grounds.

Health Minister Greg Hunt reiterated advice in a letter in late November.

“I can confirm that people who have contracted COVID-19 within the past six months and seek to enter Australia from overseas, and have not received two doses of a Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA)- approved or TGA-recognised vaccine (or one dose of the Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccine) are not considered fully vaccinated,” Hunt wrote.

The move by the Australian government threatened to cause a diplomatic incident between Canberra and Belgrade.

“I told our Novak that the whole of Serbia is with him and that our bodies are doing everything to see that the harassment of the world’s best tennis player is brought to an end immediately,” Serbia president Aleksandar Vucic posted on Instagram.

“In line with all norms of international law, Serbia will fight for Novak, truth and justice.”

TA was expected to make a statement later on Thursday but faced public outrage over the tournament exemption.

Rod Laver urged Djokovic to tell the public his medical reasoning, fearing repercussions on the court named after him at Melbourne Park.

“I think it might get ugly … if he’s got a reason for (the exemption) then … we should know it,” Laver said.

Djokovic had jetted into Tullamarine Airport late Wednesday night after a 14-hour flight from Dubai.

(With AAP)

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