Australian Open would be just fine without Novak Djokovic, says Rafael Nadal

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The Australian Open can get along perfectly well without Novak Djokovic, said the 20-time major champion Rafael Nadal, on a day when the world’s leading players bemoaned the distractions caused by Djokovic’s immigration battle.

“I tell you one thing,” said Nadal, with a stern glare. “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?

As the saga moved into its 12th day, the mood in Melbourne Park was mutinous yesterday. Australian No1 Alex De Minaur suggested that “this whole situation has taken a lot of spotlight away from us competitors”, while the former Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza said “It’s taking long. We all want to move on, and focus on the cool aspect of starting a slam.”

The 19-year-old British starlet Emma Raducanu also entered the debate, saying “I feel like the situation has taken away a little bit from the great tennis that’s been happening over this summer in Australia. For example, Andy Murray, he’s in the final tonight, which I think is pretty incredible.”

But Olympic champion Alexander Zverev – a long-time ally of Djokovic – swam against the current, suggesting that the treatment meted out by the authorities had been unfair. “The Australian government and the Victorian government should have been clear on what is going to happen beforehand,” Zverev said. “I think it’s not very fair for a person to come here and not be able to play.”

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