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Novak Djokovic criticised by Rafael Nadal amid Australian Open issues; Djokovic parents say treatment is 'political agenda'

"What's not fair is this political persecution, that everyone is taking part in, even the Australian prime minister," rages Serbia's president; Rafa Nadal says Djokovic knew the risks travelling to Australia; Djokovic parents say he is a 'scapegoat' and treatment is a 'political agenda'

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Novak Djokovic's defence of his Australian Open title is in doubt - we explain the current situation and how it affects the world's best tennis player.

Novak Djokovic has been criticised by Rafael Nadal for "not following the rules", while the Serb's parents say he is a "scapegoat" and his treatment is a "political agenda".

The 34-year-old was denied entry at the Australian border because his visa was rejected - his appeal will be heard on Monday.

Djokovic, whose Covid-19 vaccination status is unconfirmed, revealed an "exemption" from Tennis Australia to play the Australian Open without being double-jabbed. But he was not allowed through Melbourne airport, his visa was cancelled and he is currently in a quarantine hotel.

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Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt said that Novak Djokovic's exemption 'did not pass the standards of proof that were required by the Australian Border Force' after he was denied entry to the country.

Nadal said: "If he wanted, he would be playing without a problem.

"He has taken his own position and everybody is free to take their position. But there are consequences. I don't like the situation. In some ways, I feel sorry for him.

"But he knew the conditions months ago. He made his own decision."

Nadal and Djokovic - French Open
Image: Rafael Nadal has been critical of Novak Djokovic

Nadal added: "It is normal that people in Australia would be frustrated because they have gone through hard lockdowns. People were not able to come back.

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"I believe in what the people who know about medicine say. If they say we need to get vaccinated? Then we need to get vaccinated. That's my point of view.

"I have been through Covid-19. I got vaccinated twice.

"If you do this, you don't have any problems to play here. That's the only clear thing. The clear thing is - if you are vaccinated, you can play in the Australian Open.

Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal - AP TENNIS
Image: Djokovic and Nadal each have 20 Grand Slams

"The world, in my opinion, has suffered enough [without] not following the rules.

"I don't encourage anyone [about the vaccine]. Everyone must do what feels good, including him. But there are rules. If you don't want to get the vaccine, you can have some troubles.

Rafael Nadal of Spain (L) embraces Novak Djokovic of Serbia at the net following victory in their Men's Singles Final on day fifteen of the 2020 French Open at Roland Garros on October 11, 2020 in Paris, France
Image: It is unclear if Nadal and Djokovic will meet in Australia

"After a lot of people have died for two years, my feeling is that the vaccine is the only way to stop the pandemic. That's what the people who know about these things say."

World No 1 Djokovic's nine championships at the Australian Open make him the Grand Slam's most successful player.

He is tied with Nadal and Roger Federer, who will not play in Australia due to injury, on 20 career Grand Slams.

'Novak a scapegoat and treatment is a political agenda'

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Novak Djokovic's mother Dijana says her son is being treated like a 'prisoner' in poor conditions in his quarantine hotel.

Meanwhile, Djokovic's family held an emotional news conference at his restaurant in central Belgrade, with his nine previous Australian Open trophies on display.

"They are keeping him in captivity. They are stomping all over Novak to stomp all over Serbia and the Serbian people," said his father Srdjan, who had earlier told local media his son was "the Spartacus of the new world".

He also said the visa issue was "nothing to do with sport, it is a political agenda".

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Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that 'rules are rules' after Novak Djokovic was denied entry into the country ahead of the Australian Open.

His mother, Dijana, added: "They are keeping him as a prisoner, that's not human and it's not fair.

"This is a political attack on Novak Djokovic...he is a scapegoat."

Djokovic's father then continued to reiterate his views on Thursday when he demonstrated outside the National Assembly buildings. Srdjan addressed a media conference to highlight what the Serbian's family and his supporters perceive to be an "injustice".

"He met all the required conditions for the entry and participation at the tournament that he would have certainly won, since it's Novak, the best tennis player and sportsman in the world," Srdjan said.

"Jesus was crucified and endured many things, but is still alive among us. Novak is also crucified... He will endure."

Djokovic's Aussie Open debacle: What's happened?
Djokovic's Aussie Open debacle: What's happened?

We answer the key questions emerging from Novak Djokovic's chaotic and controversial journey to Australia on an initial 'vaccine exemption'.

Srdjan had also said that his son was being singled out unfairly.

"Novak and his team filed the same documents as 25 other tennis players (who received exemptions) and they didn't have any problems, just Novak," Djokovic senior said in an interview broadcast by Sky News.

"They wanted to humiliate him. They could have said 'don't come Novak' and that would have been okay. But no, they wanted to humiliate him and they're still keeping him in prison."

'It is public humiliation'

Serbian journalist Sasa Ozmo said: "Leave aside who he is. To say to a person: 'You have been granted, you can come'. Then you come and they don't let you in?

"That is a humiliation. It is a public humiliation in front of the world.

"It isn't something that is easily forgiven."

Novak Djokovic has won nine Australian Open titles
Image: Djokovic has won nine Australian Open titles

Aleksandar Vucic, the Serbian President, said: "What can we do? I spoke to Djokovic for the first time [on Wednesday night], then the second time [Thursday morning]. Nikola Selakovic, the foreign minister, is in the US, so Vlada Maric called the Australian Ambassador last night and then this morning again.

"All asking just one thing: to let Novak Djokovic move out from this horrific hotel into a rented home where he can prepare for the tournament, while he is awaiting a court decision on Monday.

"In this house, he can be under surveillance 24 hours.

"Whatever Novak has asked his country to do we did, we wanted to do it and it's our obligation to do it. It is our obligation, as a state, to protect the interests of our citizens. We are dedicated to that.

Novak Djokovic
Image: The Serb is the current world No 1

"I spoke to Novak last night, this morning, there is this time difference, but our foreign ministry will do everything, we are active on the issue.

"Our prime minister is talking to a woman at the home affairs, this lady is the one who is making decisions.

"What's not fair is this political persecution, that everyone is taking part in, even the Australian prime minister.

"I'm afraid that this kind of political ranting against Novak Djokovic will continue. They want to prove something else. When you can't beat someone then you do these kind of things."

'The draw opens up - that is no secret'

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Dusan Lajovic on Djokovic speculation: 'He says, she says...'

Djokovic's fellow Serbian player Dusan Lajovic said: "We all support each other. There is no dilemma between us. We should not pay too much attention to 'he says, she says'."

Daniil Medvedev said: "The situation is not over. He can still come and compete at the Australian Open depending on how it's going to evolve.

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Matteo Berrettini says he has sympathy for Novak Djokovic

"But when somebody who has won it nine times is not there? The draw opens up. That is no secret."

Matteo Berrettini said: "For sure I have sympathy with Novak. Nobody wants to be in that situation. It's not nice."

"But I understand the Australian people. It's a tough situation."


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