Rafael Nadal took a dig at rival Novak Djokovic on Saturday, saying the Australian Open will be a great tournament with or without the world’s number one tennis player. Ahead of the start of the first Grand Slam on Monday, Nadal told reporters at Melbourne Park: “The Australian Open is much more important than any player.”
Nadal further said that “too many questions” still needed to be answered concerning Djokovic’s bid to play at the Australian Open.
The lead-up to the tournament has been completely dominated by world number one Djokovic’s battle to compete at Melbourne Park in the face of a government trying to deport him after canceling his visa twice.
Questions remain over how Djokovic was given a health exemption by Australian authorities to play in the tournament without being vaccinated for COVID-19, only to have his visa cancelled on arrival.
“I tell you one thing, it’s very clear that Novak Djokovic is one of the best players of the history, without a doubt. But there is no one player in history that’s more important than an event, no? The players stays and then goes, and other players are coming,” Nadal told reporters/
“No one, even Roger, Novak, myself, Bjorn Borg who was amazing at his times, tennis keep going. Australian Open is much more important than any player. If he’s playing finally, okay. If he’s not playing, Australian Open will be great Australian Open with or without him. That’s my point of view.
Nadal, level on a record 20 Grand Slam titles with Djokovic and the absent Roger Federer, said he wished him “all the very best” but wanted more details about his case.
“From my point of view (there) is a lot of questions that need to be answered,” Nadal told reporters at Melbourne Park.
“In some ways I think (it) will be good if everything clarifies soon, no?
“I really respect him, even if I (do) not agree with a lot of things that he did the last couple of weeks.”
After having his visa cancelled for a second time on Friday, Djokovic will fight to have the decision overturned at a court hearing on Sunday.