Anger over Novak Djokovic’s immigration battle has completely overshadowed tennis played this week ahead of the Australian Open, and Andy Murray, one of Djokovic’s longtime rivals, weighed in minutes after reaching the Sydney International’s singles final.
The former world number one Murray said, “I’m not going to sit here and start kicking Novak as he goes down. I said it the other day – it’s not a good situation for anyone.”
Murray, like many players and fans, wasn’t clear about what might happen next. After his visa was revoked for the second time, Djokovic’s lawyers soon returned to court for a hearing on Friday evening.
But Murray said he was eager to get the situation resolved.
“I think it would be good for everyone if that were the case,” he said. “It feels like it’s been on for a long time now, and yes – not great for tennis, not great for the Australian Open, not great for Novak. Obviously a lot of people criticized the government here as well. It wasn’t good.”
Murray said he would encourage people to get vaccinated against the coronavirus and also believed they should be allowed the option to decline the shot, as Djokovic did.
“But there are also consequences sometimes to these decisions,” Murray said. “The lady who gave me a third injection, she works in the hospital in central London, and she told me that everyone in the ICU and the ventilators are all unimmunised. To me, it makes sense for people to go ahead and do it.
“Yes, most healthy young athletes would probably do just fine, but yes, we all have to play our part in this, I think.”
At the Open Qualifier at Melbourne Park, crowds were few 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 that’s regardless of tennis to be honest,” said Tom Rundle, 58 from Adelaide, wearing a wide-brimmed hat. This is a bigger issue. Everyone needs to follow the rules, and for the last six months the government has been very strict about vaccination really. I don’t think this is Novak doing the wrong thing; It’s about following the rules, unfortunately. “
Melbourne-based Peter Tretnik, 37, from Slovakia, said he has followed Djokovic’s career for a long time and returned to the Australian Open this year hoping to see him again.
“This is his tournament and I think it’s a big loss for the Australian Open,” Tretnik said, standing next to Rod Laver Arena, where Djokovic has won nine previous Australian Open titles. “His face is everywhere here in the tournament and if you’re walking around town and taking the tram.
“But that is what it is. At some point, I think it becomes again like vaccinating against the unvaccinated, and if Novak plays the championship, it will be a huge win for the anti-VAC. It’s a tough situation.”
Roger Rashid, the Australian who has coached several high-profile players, including former world number one Lleyton Hewitt, said Djokovic should accept a second revocation of his visa, rather than try to appeal the government’s decision. A hearing regarding his appeal is scheduled for Saturday morning.
“I think there comes a time when you have to do what is appropriate for the greater good and what is appropriate for the sport and your peers,” Rashid said. “And actually walk away and say, ‘I’m going back another year and do this again. “The conditions are unfortunate, but the climate is very fickle.”