In an interview with CNN on Saturday, the 35-year-old, who is in Melbourne ahead of next week’s Australian Open, appeared to express his frustration with how Novak Djokovic’s visa saga has overshadowed the tournament, describing it as a “circus.”
Djokovic was arrested by Australian border officials on Saturday morning in accordance with a court-ordered arrangement on Friday after his visa was revoked for the second time by Australian Immigration Minister Alex Hawke.
The men’s world No. 1 will now spend Saturday night in pre-immigration detention before facing a Federal Court hearing on Sunday morning Australian time in a final bid to overturn the ruling.
In justifying his decision to cancel the tennis champion’s visa, Immigration Minister Hawke said Djokovic’s continued presence in Australia could lead to “increased anti-vaccination sentiment” or even “civil unrest”, according to court documents.
“I’m just a player who sees the circus from the outside. But, like I said, I’m a bit tired of this case,” Nadal told CNN. “I think it’s gone too far. I wish Novak the best. And that’s it, I want to play tennis.”
The former world No. 1 is looking to add to his tally of 20 majors – a record he shares with Roger Federer and Djokovic – when the tournament begins next week. Nadal confirmed he hasn’t seen or spoken to Djokovic in recent days.
Asked about the impact of Djokovic’s vaccine skepticism on members of the public who look up to the world No.1 as a role model, Nadal said that while he respects his competitor, “people who are in a position that can create or have an impact on others must be responsible.”
“I respect him as a person. Of course, a lot as an athlete. Although I don’t agree with his way of thinking about how to deal with this pandemic,” Nadal said. “I really believe in vaccination… and when you make your decisions there are consequences… We have done a lot together. I am thinking of positive things for our sport and I wish it well,” Nadal said.
“What we are facing in the world is much, much more important than tennis and tennis players…millions of people have already died and many families have been suffering the consequences of this terrible (pandemic) for almost two years,” he added.
Nadal, who is coming back from a foot injury, said the Australian Open would be “great with or without Novak Djokivic”, adding that there is nothing in the history of sport more important than sport himself.