Nadal ‘happy’ after Djokovic’s Australian Open visa decision
TURIN – Rafael Nadal on Thursday welcomed the decision to grant his Serbian rival Novak Djokovic a visa which will enable him to compete at the 2023 Australian Open, describing it as “the best news possible”.
In a sensational series of events in 2022, Djokovic was detained and deported from Australia before the Grand Slam started over his non-vaccinated status on Covid-19.
He was initially barred by the then-conservative government from returning to Australia until 2025 but the country’s new Immigration Minister Andrew Giles said that with a significant easing in pandemic restrictions, the nine-time champion was now welcome to return.
Nadal, who won the event in Djokovic’s absence, has a men’s record 22 individual Grand Slam titles to the Serb’s 21, with Australia the next of the four annual major tournaments.
“I always said the same – tennis is better when the best players are on the court,” said Nadal after his consolation victory over Casper Ruud at the ATP Finals in Turin.
“Roger (Federer) is not playing any more. I missed a lot of Grand Slams for injuries. And last year Novak was not able to play there.
“That’s past. What’s next is Novak will be able to play again. That’s the best news possible, especially knowing that now the virus is more under control around the world. So why not?
“(I’m) Happy for him. Happy for the tournament. Happy for the fans. That’s it.”
Nadal, the top seed in the ATP finals in the absence of injured world No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz, bowed out at the pool stage in spite of his 7-5, 7-5 win over Ruud on Thursday.
He had already been eliminated after losing his first two matches in the Green Group to Taylor Fritz and Felix Auger-Aliassime.
However, he said he was happy with a season in which he won the first two Grand Slams, in Australia and at Roland Garros.
“I can’t ask for more,” the 36-year-old said. “2022 has had a tough six months, two Grand Slams, and finishing the year in a high spot in the rankings (world No. 2).
“At my age, to be able to achieve and be competitive means a lot for me.”
Fritz outlasted Felix Auger-Aliassime 7-6 (7-4), 6-7 (5-7), 6-2 on Thursday and will face Djokovic in the semi-finals.
“It was tough, no one really had any chances early on,” Fritz said.
“I had to just not get frustrated, had to reset. I felt going into the third that a break was coming.”
The other last-four clash will see Ruud facing either Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas or Russian Andrey Rublev – the result of their match was not available at press time. - AFP, REUTERS