The furor over Novak Djokovic’s immigration fight completely overshadowed the tennis played this week ahead of the Australian Open, and Andy Murray, one of Djokovic’s longtime rivals, weighed in minutes after he reached the Sydney International singles final.
“I’m not going to sit here and start kicking Novak while he’s down,” said Murray, a former world number one. “I said the other day – this is not a good situation for anyone.”
Murray, like many players and fans, was unclear about what might happen next; after his visa was canceled for a second time, Djokovic’s lawyers were soon back in court for a hearing on Friday evening.
But Murray said he was eager for the situation to be resolved.
“I think it would be good for everyone if that was the case,” he said. “It just seems like it’s been dragging on for quite a long time now and yeah – not great for tennis, not great for the Australian Open, not great for Novak. Obviously, a lot of people have criticized the government here as well. It hasn’t been good.
Murray said he would encourage people to get vaccinated against the coronavirus and also believed they should have the choice to refuse the vaccine, as Djokovic did.
“But there are also consequences sometimes for those decisions,” Murray said.
At the Open qualifier at Melbourne Park, crowds have been sparse this year, but the drama around Djokovic’s presence in the country was on almost everyone’s mind on Friday.
“I love my tennis, but I think it’s independent of tennis to be honest,” said Tom Rundle, a 58-year-old from Adelaide wearing a wide-brimmed hat. “It’s a bigger issue. Everyone has to follow the rules, and the government was pretty firm on that six months ago, when it came to vaccinations. I don’t think it’s us who do the wrong thing by Novak; it’s about following the rules, unfortunately.
Petr Tretinik, a 37-year-old Slovak resident of Melbourne, said he has long followed Djokovic’s career closely and returned to the Australian Open this year in hopes of seeing him again.
“It’s his tournament, and I think it’s a big loss for the Australian Open,” said Tretinik, standing next to the Rod Laver Arena, where Djokovic won his previous nine singles titles at the Australian Open. “His face is everywhere here at the tournament and if you walk around town and take the trams.
“But that’s how it is. At some point, I think it goes back to being like vaccinated versus unvaccinated, and if Novak plays the tournament, then it’ll be like a big win for the antivaxxers. It’s a tricky situation. »
Roger Rasheed, an Australian who has coached several top players including former world number one Lleyton Hewitt, said
Djokovic is expected to accept the second cancellation of his visa, rather than trying to challenge the government’s decision.
“I think there’s a time when you have to figure out what’s good for the greater good and what’s good for the sport and your peers,” Rasheed said. “And actually just walk away and say, ‘I’ll come back another year and do it again. The circumstances are unfortunate, but it is a very unstable climate.