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Players are tired of the Novak Djokovic saga, with great Rafael Nadal declaring it will be a great Australian Open, with or without the world No.1.
Djokovic’s visa cancellation dramas have dominated the build-up to the year’s first grand slam, with the playing status of the nine-time Open champion still to be decided in court on Sunday.
Djokovic faces deportation unless he is successful with the hastily-arranged court action ahead of the Open first round starting Monday.
Australia’s top male player Alex de Minaur said he was frustrated by the ongoing focus on the Serbian superstar’s off-court problems.
“This whole situation has taken a lot of spotlight away from us competitors,” the world No.34 said on Saturday at Melbourne Park.
“It feels like it’s taking away from us competitors who just want to start.
“I’m just ready to put all of this behind me and focus on playing my tennis matches … we all just want to get on with our own stuff.”
With Roger Federer again missing the Open through injury, the door will open wider for 2009 champion Nadal to go one clear of his two great rivals by winning a record 21st men’s grand slam title if Djokovic is ruled out.
Nadal said despite reigning champion Djokovic’s domination in Australia, no single player was bigger than a grand slam.
“It’s very clear that Novak Djokovic is one of the best players of the history, without a doubt,” the 35-year-old said.
“But there is no one player in history that’s more important than an event.
“The players stays and then goes, and other players are coming.
“No-one, even Roger (Federer), Novak, myself, Bjorn Borg who was amazing at his time, tennis keeps going.
“Australian Open is much more important than any player. If he’s playing finally, OK. If he’s not playing, Australian Open will be great Australian Open with or without him.”
Fellow Spaniard Garbine Muguruza, the women’s third seed, had little sympathy for Djokovic.
“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,” said the two-time major champion.
Australian veteran Sam Stosur, playing in her last Open, said she hoped the Dojokovic saga didn’t “tarnish” this year’s tournament.
“We want the Aussie Open to be for good things, not unfortunately what the Novak situation has become,” she said.
Greek men’s fourth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, an outspoken critic of Djokovic, tried to turn attention back to the game.
“It has been pretty much on every news outlet the last couple of weeks. It has received a lot of attention,” said Tsitsipas, who was runner-up to Djokovic at last year’s French Open.
“That’s why I’m here to talk about tennis … not enough tennis has been talked about in the last couple of weeks, which is a shame.”
Nadal recently overcame COVID-19 while De Minaur battled the virus last year, with his form and rankings sliding as he struggled to fully recover.
After watching fellow Australian players such as John Millman spend 11 months away from home because of the country’s strict border and quarantine requirements, he appeared to have little sympathy for Djokovic.
The 32nd seed said Djokovic had made his choice not to vaccinate.
“When you’re coming in, as well as every other tennis player, if you wanted to come into the country, you had to be double vaccinated. It was up to him, his choices, his judgement,” he said.
“Here we are.”