Tennis stars Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic are both in Australia this week, but currently under very different circumstances. While No.6 world-ranked Nadal is competing in the Australian Open, Djokivic is being detained in an immigration hotel known to house refugees.
Nadal has little sympathy for the Serbian player.
"In some way I feel sorry for him," Nadal told media Thursday while answering in a series of questions regarding Djokivic's detainment in Melbourne. "But at the same time, he knew the conditions since a lots of months ago, so he makes his own decision."
World No. 1 Djokovic's visa was cancelled by Australian Border Forces officials Wednesday after he failed to provide the correct documentation for his exemption from the country's COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
Mr Djokovic’s visa has been cancelled. Rules are rules, especially when it comes to our borders. No one is above these rules. Our strong border policies have been critical to Australia having one of the lowest death rates in the world from COVID, we are continuing to be vigilant.
— Scott Morrison (@ScottMorrisonMP) January 5, 2022
"If he wanted, he would be playing here in Australia without a problem," said Nadal. "He made his own decisions, and everybody is free to take their own decisions, but then there are some consequences."
When asked on how Djokovic's situation impacts how people look at the country and the Australia Open in general, Nadal said, "its normal that the people here in Australia get very frustrated," considering how the country has suffered and endured lockdowns during the pandemic.
"But the end of the day the only thing that I can say is we have been going through very challenging and a lot of families have been suffering a lot during the last two years with all the pandemic.
"From my point of view, that's the only think that I can say say is I believe in what the people who knows about medicine says, and if the people says that we need to get vaccinated, we need to get the vaccine," Nadal continued. "That's my point of view. I went through the COVID. I have been vaccinated twice. If you do this, you don't have any problem to play here."
Melbourne has been under severe anti-COVID measures during the pandemic with 260-plus days of lockdowns and restrictions on travel. More than 90% of the state of Victoria is fully vaccinated (age 12 and over), and Victoria state government mandated full vaccinations for all players, staff and fans at the Australian Open unless there is a genuine medical reason.
Victoria state Deputy Premier James Merlino said medical exemptions would not be “a loophole for privileged tennis players” and would only be possible in “exceptional circumstances if you have an acute medical condition. Neither Tennis Australia nor Djokovic revealed the reason he sought an exemption.
"The only for me clear thing is if you are vaccinated, you can play in the Australian Open and everywhere, and the world in my opinion have been suffering enough to not follow the rules."
Contact Analis Bailey at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @analisbailey.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Rafael Nadal short on sympathy for Novak Djokovic about Aussie Open