Novak Djokovic visa hearing: Rafael Nadal backs great Australian Open 'with or without' world No 1
World No 1 Novak Djokovic has been detained again by Australian authorities ahead of second visa appeal hearing on Sunday morning (Saturday night GMT); Djokovic due to play Miomir Kecmanovic in the first round
Last Updated: 15/01/22 12:14pm
The Australian Open is more important than a single player and will be a great tournament "with or without" Novak Djokovic, according to Rafael Nadal.
The Spaniard has made it clear on a number of occasions that he disagrees with Djokovic's resistance to Covid-19 vaccination and the degree to which his ongoing visa battle has overshadowed the tournament is clearly a frustration to many.
Speaking at his pre-tournament press conference, Nadal said: "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.
"Australian Open is much more important than any player. If he's playing finally, OK. If he's not playing, Australian Open will be a great Australian Open with or without him."
Djokovic has appealed against the decision to cancel his visa for a second time and a court hearing will take place on Sunday morning (10.30pm Saturday GMT), the day before he is due to play Miomir Kecmanovic in the first round.
The world No 1 put out a statement earlier this week admitting he took part in an interview last month when he knew he had tested positive for the virus, and every new development in the saga has drawn huge attention.
Nadal said: "From my point of view, there is a lot of questions that need to be answered. In some ways, I think it will be good if everything is clarified soon.
"Everyone chooses his road. I wish him all the best. I really respect him, even if I do not agree with a lot of things that he did the last couple of weeks."
'It was up to him: his choices, his judgment'
Stefanos Tsitsipas, who was highly critical of Djokovic in an interview earlier this week, shut down the topic on Saturday, saying: "A lot of people are obviously talking about it. That's why I'm here to talk about tennis. Not enough tennis has been talked about in the last couple of weeks, which is a shame."
Public opinion in Australia has not been on Djokovic's side, and Alex De Minaur offered a home perspective, saying: "Australians have gone through a lot. There's no secret about that. They've had it very tough. They've done a lot of work to protect themselves and their borders.
"When you're coming in, as well as every other tennis player, if you wanted to come into the country, you had to be double vaccinated. It was up to him: his choices, his judgment."
Alexander Zverev is usually one of Djokovic's staunchest supporters on tour and he believes the world No 1's status has counted against him.
"I don't know enough of the situation but I do think if it would not be Novak Djokovic, world No 1, with 20 grand slams, all that, then it would not be as big of a drama," he said.
"I understand the perspective from the Australian people and the government. The Australian Government and the Victorian Government should have been clear on what is going to happen beforehand. I think it's not very fair for a person to come here and not be able to play."
Novak Djokovic - Sequence of events
|January 4 - Djokovic announces he will be travelling to Australia with an 'exemption permission'.|
|January 5 - While Djokovic is airborne, Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison says the athlete will be on the "next plane home" if he cannot provide "acceptable proof" that his exemption is legitimate.|
|Acting Sports Minister Jaala Pulford highlights that the local government of Victoria, where the Australian Open is held, will not support Djokovic's visa application.|
|The world No 1 arrives at Melbourne Airport around 11.30pm local time.|
|January 6 - Around 3.15am, Djokovic's father reports that his son is being held in isolation in Melbourne Airport.|
|At 5am, Goran Ivanisevic releases an image on social media of himself and another member of Djokovic's team seemingly waiting for the world No 1. The post is captioned, ‘Not the most usual trip Down Under’.|
|Around 8.15am local time, Djokovic's visa is confirmed to have been denied by the Australian Border Force.|
|Djokovic is moved to quarantine hotel while his legal team appeal visa cancellation.|
|The appeal against his visa cancellation is adjourned until Monday (Jan 10) morning Australian time.|
|January 7 - Australia Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews says Djokovic is "free to leave any time" and is not being detained.|
|Djokovic breaks silence in Instagram post on Friday, thanking his fans for their "continuous support".|
|January 8 - Submission from Djokovic's lawyers on Saturday reveals positive Covid-19 test in December.|
|January 9 - Home Affairs Minister Andrews has a submission to delay the hearing until Wednesday (Jan 12) rejected by Judge Anthony Kelly.|
|Submission from Australian government lawyers says Djokovic had not been given an assurance he would be allowed to enter the country with his medical exemption.|
|January 10 – Djokovic wins appeal. Judge Anthony Kelly quashes visa cancellation, and orders the Australian Government to pay legal costs and release Djokovic from detention.|
|Djokovic takes to social media to confirm that he remains intent on competing at the Australian Open.|
|January 12 - Djokovic posts on Instagram admitting to making an "error of judgement" by attending an interview and photoshoot with a French newspaper after testing positive for Covid-19 last month.|
|January 14 - Novak Djokovic faces deportation after the Australian government revoked his visa for a second time.|
|January 15 - The case is transferred to the Federal Court of Australia and the appeal hearing is officially set for 9:30 local time on Sunday (Jan 16) morning.|