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Excitement over Novak Djokovic’s immigration struggle has thoroughly overshadowed tennis, which will be played ahead of the Australian Open this week, and Andy Murray, one of Djokovic’s long-time rivals, weighed in minutes after reaching 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 No. 1. “I said it the other day — it’s not a good situation for anyone.”
Murray, like many players and fans, wasn’t sure what might come next; After his visa was canceled a second time, Djokovic’s lawyers were soon back in court for a hearing on Friday night.
But Murray said he was eager for the situation to be resolved.
“I think it would be good for everyone if that were the case,” he said. “It just seems like it’s dragged on for quite a while now and yeah – not great for tennis, not great for the Australian Open, not great for Novak. Apparently a lot of people have criticized the government here too. It was not good.”
British tennis player Andy Murray expressed his sympathy for world number one Novak Djokovic but encouraged people to get vaccinated against COVID-19 pic.twitter.com/HO1pYfg0KQ
– Reuters (@Reuters) January 14, 2022
Murray said he would encourage people to get vaccinated against the coronavirus and also believed they should have the choice to opt out, as Djokovic did.
“But sometimes those decisions have consequences,” Murray said. “The lady who gave me my third vaccination works at the hospital in central London and she told me that every single person who is in intensive care and on ventilators are all people who are unvaccinated. So to me it makes sense that people would go ahead and get it done.
“Yes, most young, reasonably healthy athletes will probably be fine, but yes, we all have to do our part, I think.”
There were few spectators at the Open qualifying tournament at Melbourne Park this year, but the drama surrounding Djokovic’s presence in the country occupied almost everyone on Friday.
“I love my tennis but I think that’s independent of tennis to be honest,” said Tom Rundle, a 58-year-old from Adelaide, who wears a wide-brimmed hat. “It’s a bigger problem. Everyone has to play by the rules and the government has been pretty strict about getting vaccinated for six months now. I don’t think we’re doing Novak the wrong thing; unfortunately it is about following the rules.”
Petr Tretinik, a 37-year-old Melbourne resident from Slovakia, said he had followed Djokovic’s career closely 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,” said Tretinik, standing next to the Rod Laver Arena where Djokovic won his nine previous singles titles at the Australian Open. “His face is everywhere here at the tournament and when you just walk around town and take the tram.
“But it is what it is. At some point I think it will be like vaccinated versus unvaccinated again and if Novak plays the tournament then it will be like a big win for non-vaccinators. It’s a delicate situation.”
Roger Rasheed, an Australian who has coached several leading players including former world No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt, said Djokovic should accept the second cancellation of his visa rather than try to challenge the government’s decision. A hearing related to his appeal is scheduled for Saturday morning.
“I think there comes a time when you have to do what’s right for the greater good and what’s right for the sport and your peers,” Rasheed said. “And actually take a step back and say, ‘I’ll come back another year and do this again.’ Circumstances are unfortunate, but it is a very volatile climate.”