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Nadal on Djokovic: “If he wanted, he would be playing here without a problem”

The former world No 1 said Djokovic – who is being denied entry to the country and is set to miss the Australian Open – could have avoided problems by being vaccinated against Covid-19

Rafael Nadal, Melbourne 2022 AI / Reuters / Panoramic

Rafael Nadal was diplomatic, but left everyone present in his press conference in Melbourne on Thursday in little doubt as to what he thinks of the situation surrounding Novak Djokovic, who is set to be sent home from Australia for not having the right visa to enter the country.

The world No 1 was detained at Melbourne airport for more than eight hours overnight on Wednesday into Thursday after he “failed to provide appropriate evidence to meet the entry requirements to Australia”.

Nadal: “Everyone makes their own choice, but there are consequences”

Nadal told reporters that Djokovic’s decision not to be vaccinated against Covid-19 – while a personal decision – had led to this situation.

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

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

“I went through the COVID. I have been vaccinated twice. If you do this, you don’t have any problem to play here. That’s the only clear thing. The only for me clear thing is if you are vaccinated, you can play in the Australian Open and everywhere, and the world in my opinion have been suffering enough to not follow the rules.”

Nadal: “It’s normal that people in Australia get very frustrated”

While Nadal made a strong case early in the pandemic on to be vaccinated, saying it was for the good of everyone, Djokovic has consistently refused to reveal his vaccination status over the past year and said he would not be in favour of making the vaccine mandatory to play on the ATP Tour.

The Australian Open is the first event to mandate vaccination for players, but it also allowed a small number of players exemptions in special circumstances, but only after they had convinced two independent medical panels they merited one. The 34-year-old Djokovic was given an exemption, but on arrival in Australia, he was stopped by border officials, who said he had not provided evidence.

The original decision to allow Djokovic an exemption – exemptions are only granted for a small number of reasons, including if a player has had Covid-19 in the past six months – was widely criticised in Australia and particularly in Melbourne, which had the longest lockdown of any city in the world.

Nadal said he understood the public’s anger and said listening to science, and following medical advice was the best thing to do for everyone.

“(It) seems some rough situation, but at the end of the day the only thing that I can say is we have been going through very challenging and a lot of families have been suffering a lot during the last two years with all the pandemic,” he said.

“It’s normal that the people here in Australia get very 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.

“If you don’t want to get the vaccine, then you can have some troubles”

Rafael Nadal

“From my point of view, the only thing that I can say is I believe in what the people who knows about medicine says, and if the people says that we need to get vaccinated, we need to get the vaccine. That’s my point of view.

“I feel everyone have to do whatever, whatever feels that is good for him. But there are rules, and if you don’t want to get the vaccine, then you can have some troubles. That’s the thing. Of course after a lot of people had been dying for two years, my feeling is with the vaccine is the only way to stop this pandemic. That’s what the people who understands about this says, and I am no one to create a different opinion.”

Nadal details his own Covid-19 experience

Nadal also detailed his own experience with Covid-19, saying he had suffered some quite nasty symptoms.

“I have been going through very challenging times for four or five days,” he said. “They’ve been tough, and after that I felt so tired, and I had fever. I had to be on the bed for a couple of days without having the chance to move much because I was very sick with fever, and one of the toughest symptoms that I had in my life in terms of flu.

“Then I decided when my PCR was negative, I decided to come here as soon as possible because that’s in my opinion the better way mentally and physically to try to recover and to be ready and to adapt myself to the conditions here in Australia.”

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