As Novak Djokovic remains in Australian immigration detention with a canceled visa, the extent of Rafael Nadal’s sympathy is limited.
Djokovic arrived in Melbourne on Thursday to prepare for the Australian Open only to find that the Australian Border Force had canceled his visa, accusing him of not complying with the nation’s laws. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison wrote on Twitter that “no one is above these rules” in regard to the nation’s COVID-19 policies.
Nadal, a former World No. 1 who’s tied with Djokovic and Roger Federer with 20 career Grand Slam titles, addressed his rival’s plight in a news conference on Thursday.
“I think if he wanted, he would be playing here in Australia without a problem,” Nadal told reporters. “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.”
Djokovic remains in quarantine as he awaits appeal
Djokovic has railed against COVID-19 vaccination mandates throughout the pandemic but has declined to publicly disclose his vaccination status. The host state of Victoria requires that anyone who attends or plays in the Australian Open is vaccinated against COVID-19 barring a medical exemption.
Djokovic announced on Tuesday that he had been granted a medical exemption. The Australian Open later confirmed that he had been cleared to play. He arrived on Thursday to find out that the nation’s equivalent of border patrol had barred him from entering the country, claiming he didn’t provide sufficient proof for an exemption.
“The rule is very clear,” Morrison said on Thursday. “You need to have a medical exemption. He didn’t have a valid medical exemption. We make the call at the border, and that’s where it’s enforced.”
Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic has accused the Australian government of singling out the Serbian tennis star.
“I’m afraid that this overkill will continue,” Vucic said, per The Associated Press. “When you can’t beat someone, then you do such things.”
Djokovic was ordered to leave the country but remains in a quarantine hotel as he awaits the results of an appeal. He’s free to leave the country in the meantime if he chooses. According to AP, Federal Circuit Court Judge Anthony Kelly adjourned the case until Monday after a delay in receiving an application for the review. An attorney for the federal government agreed to delay Djokovic’s deportation until the case’s next hearing, according to the report.
Australian Open play begins on Jan. 17. Djokovic is a nine-time champion at the event and the world’s No. 1 ranked player.