Defending Australian Open champion Naomi Osaka on Saturday called the Novak Djokovic story “unfortunate” and “sad” as players complained that the scandal was overshadowing the first Grand Slam of the year. Djokovic, the number one in the world without vaccines, has been re-arrested in Australia after authorities revoked his visa for the second time and declared him a threat to the public. She is facing deportation with her chances of showing her men’s title increasingly slim in Melbourne Park.
His lawyers have been fighting to keep him in the country for more than a week.
Four-time Grand Slam winner Osaka said he did not know the Serbian well but regretted how he was remembered instead of being exploited in court.
Two days before the start of the tournament, he said, “I think this is an unfortunate situation. He is such a great player and it is sad that some people may remember him in this way.”
World number four Stefanos Sitcipas earlier this week criticized the 20-time Grand Slam winner and rival, saying he was “playing by his own rules”.
But reluctant to get involved again on Saturday.
“I’m here to talk about tennis, not Novak Djokovic,” said the Greek star.
But he added: “I’m not going to lie. Over the last few weeks it has become quite popular in every news outlet. It has received a lot of attention. A lot of people are obviously talking about it.
“So I’m here to talk about tennis. We haven’t talked about enough tennis in the last few weeks, which is a shame.”
Australia’s top men’s hopeful Alex de Minaur is also tired of the situation, saying it was a deterrent to the tournament and other players.
“First of all, this whole situation has taken away a lot of the spotlight from our competitors. We are here to play in the Australian Open.
“It seems like it’s taking away from us competitors who just want to get started.”
Asked whether Djokovic was the author of his own death, he replied: “Look, Australians have gone through a lot. There is no secrecy about it. It was very difficult for them.
“They have done a lot to protect themselves and their borders. When you come, as well as every other tennis player, if you want to come to the country, you have to double-vaccinate.
“It’s up to him, his choice, his judgment. Here we are.”
Former world number one Andy Murray, who will play in the Open, said on Friday he hoped Djokovic’s condition would clear up.
“It looks like it’s been stretched for a long time now and (it’s) not great for tennis, not great for the Australian Open, not great for Novak,” Murray said.
But he added: “I’m not going to sit here and start kicking Novak while he’s down.”
(This story was not edited by NDTV staff and was automatically generated from a syndicated feed.)
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