One of the Australian Open champion's arch-rivals has made a frank admission about his visa saga
Fellow tennis icon Rafael Nadal has sent a message to Novak Djokovic and discussed Covid vaccines after the world number one was freed by a judge in his ongoing battle to stay in Australia despite being unvaccinated.
The Spaniard, who stands alongside Djokovic and Roger Federer in being a single Grand Slam title away from a record 21 major triumphs, might have held a keener interest than most as he watched the drama unfold in Melbourne on Monday.
While court papers revealed that Djokovic has not received a Covid vaccine, Nadal has been keen to encourage his fans across the world to take their shots in order to help end a pandemic which has left tennis at a standstill at times since the emergence of the virus.
Nadal evidently would not agree with a potential move by the Australian government to cancel Djokovic's visa despite the ruling.
"Whether or not I agree with Djokovic on some things, justice has spoken and has said that he has the right to participate in the Australian Open and I think it is the fairest decision to do so, if it has been resolved that way," said the world number six, speaking to Onda Cero via Tennis365.
"I wish him the best of luck. On a personal level, I'd much rather he didn't play.
"It's sports, many interests move around it - on a general level, at an economic, advertising level. Everything is much better when the best can be playing.
Discussing Covid treatments, Nadal said: "I just try to follow what the people who know better say - the debate that is generated around it is a circus.
"The most important institutions in the world say that the vaccine is the way to stop this pandemic and the disaster that we have been living for the last 20 months.
"One thing is clear: no matter how much debate is generated, there are millions of deaths in the world due to a virus. That is a reality."
In a country where there are thought to have been around 2,400 Covid-related deaths, Prime Minister Scott Morrison's government partly made their initial decision to cancel Djokovic's visa because they deemed him a risk to others as an unvaccinated individual.
After successfully returning to action for the first time since August in a warm-up for the Australian Open, Nadal told reporters: "The only thing that I can say is I believe in what the people who know about medicine say, and if the people say that we need to get vaccinated, we need to get the vaccine.
"That's my point of view. I went through Covid. I have been vaccinated twice. If you do this, you don't have any problem playing here. That's the only clear thing.
"The only clear thing for me is if you are vaccinated, you can play in the Australian Open and everywhere. The world, in my opinion, has been suffering enough to not follow the rules."
"If [Djokovic] wanted, he would be playing here in Australia without a problem. He made his own decisions, and everybody is free to take their own decisions, but then there are some consequences.
"Of course, I don't like the situation that is happening. In some ways, I feel sorry for him.
"But at the same time he knew the conditions since a lot of months ago, so he makes his own decision."
Djokovic believed he was exempt from restrictions on the unvaccinated because he returned a positive Covid test in December 2021.
Nadal is among the favorites to lift the trophy at the tournament he last won in 2009. The Australian Open runs from January 17-30.