By Phil Black, Hannah Ritchie and Ben Rothenberg, CNN
Tennis star Rafael Nadal has said decisions have “consequences,” and while he respects his close rival Novak Djokovic, those in the public eye “need to be responsible.”
In an interview with CNN on Saturday, the 35-year-old, who is in Melbourne ahead of next week’s Australian Open, appeared to express frustration at how Novak Djokovic’s back-and-forth visa saga has overshadowed the tournament, describing it as a “circus.”
Djokovic was detained by Australian border authorities on Saturday morning, in accordance with a court-ordered arrangement decided Friday after his visa was revoked for the second time by Australia’s immigration minister, Alex Hawke.
The men’s world No. 1 will now spend Saturday night in pre-immigration detention before facing a Federal Court hearing Sunday morning, Australia time, in a last ditch attempt to overturn the ruling.
In justifying his decision to cancel the tennis champion’s visa, immigration minister Hawke said Djokovic’s ongoing presence in Australia could lead to an “increase in anti-vaccination sentiment” or even “civil unrest,” court filings show.
“I’m just a player seeing the circus from the outside. But, as I said, I am a little bit tired of this matter,” Nadal told CNN. “I think it went too far. I wish Novak all the very best. And that’s it, I want to play tennis.”
The former world No. 1 is looking to add to his tally of 20 majors — a record he shares with Roger Federer and Djokovic — when the tournament begins next week. Nadal confirmed he hadn’t seen or spoken to Djokovic in recent days.
When asked about the impact of Djokovic’s vaccine skepticism on members of the public who view the world No.1 as a role model, Nadal said that while he respected his competitor, “people who are in a position that can create, or can have an impact on other people need to be responsible.”
“I respect him as a person. Of course, a lot as an athlete. Even if I don’t agree with his way to thinking about how to proceed with this pandemic,” said Nadal. “I really believe in vaccination…and when you make your decisions then there is some consequences…We did a lot of things together. I think positive things for our sport and I wish him well,” said Nadal.
“What we are facing worldwide is much, much more important than tennis and tennis players…millions of people have already passed away and a lot of families are suffering the consequences of this terrible (pandemic) almost two years,” he added.
Nadal, who is returning from a foot injury, said the Australian Open would be “great with or without Novak Djokivic,” adding that there is no in the history of the sport more important than the sport itself.
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