Rafael Nadal has described Novak Djokovic's absence from the Australian Open as a "terrible situation" and said the defending champion was "not the only one" that could have done things better.
Djokovic has left Australia after a last-ditch visa appeal was rejected. The world No. 1 initially had his visa cancelled for failing to adequately meet the criteria for a medical exemption but won an appeal.
Australia’s immigration minister, Alex Hawke, then re-cancelled the visa "on health and good order grounds”. The nine-time champion at Melbourne Park again challenged the decision, but that effort was thrown out.
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As for Nadal, he cruised through his opening match with a comfortable straight-sets victory over Marcos Giron. The Spaniard, who Mats Wilander believes will now be scared of no one in the draw, has had his say once more on the Djokovic saga.
"Almost one week ago, when he won in the first instance, the case, he was able to get back his visa and practising. I said the justice had spoken,” Nadal said in his post-match press conference.
"If the justice says his visa is valid and he’s able to play here, the justice has spoken, so that’s the fairest thing, that he deserves to play here. Yesterday, the justice said another thing. I will never be against what the justice says.
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"Another thing is what I believe personally, and what I believe is the ideal situation personally, no? The ideal situation in the world of sport is that the best players are on court and playing the most important events, without a doubt. That’s better for the sport, without a doubt.
"If Novak Djokovic is playing here, it is better for everybody, no doubt about that. Another thing is what happened. As I said in the beginning, I can’t say another thing because I believe that the situation is very clear now.
"He’s not the only one that probably did the things bad in that case,” Nadal continued.
"Of course, there are more responsible in this terrible situation that we faced for the last two weeks. But of course, he is one of those responsible, too.
"So on a personal level, yes, I would like to see him playing here. If it is fair or not that he’s playing here is another discussion that I don’t want to talk any more about."
Nadal wrapped up the contest in one hour and 51 minutes, and in his on-court interview, he reflected on everything he had to battle through to get to Melbourne Park playing well.
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"The last six months have been tough," he said. "Being outside of the competition, but since the first lockdown in 2020 everybody knows I've had a foot injury since the beginning of my career.
"I was able to manage it more or less well. After that, two months being at home, it has been very challenging since then.
"I was able to play at the end of 2020 and the beginning of 2021, but I have had very tough moments with a lot of doubts. I can't be happier to be back here in Australia in this amazing stadium. It's fantastic for me.
"When you come back from injury, things are always difficult. You have to go day-by-day. You have to forgive yourself when things are not going your way. Staying positive, playing with the right energy and being on the tour practising with the guys and winning matches for sure helps.
"Last week I won three matches, I won a title which is always beautiful. I'm doing better."
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