Rafael Nadal weighs in on Novak Djokovic news at ATP Finals

Novak Djokovoc and Rafael Nadal are pictured at the French Open.
Rafael Nadal says Novak Djokovic's presence at the 2023 Australian Open will be good for the sport. (Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)

Rafael Nadal has weighed in on the decision to allow Novak Djokovic to return to Australia, after the federal government decided to overturn the three-year visa ban imposed on the former World No.1.

Djokovic was issued the ban following a two-week long battle in various courts, after he was detained by border officials for attempting to enter the country without a valid exemption from the COVID-19 vaccine.

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In the midst of rollout out a national vaccination campaign at the time, overseas travellers were required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or carry a valid medical exemption - a requirement which has since been abandoned.

With the 2023 Australian Open approaching, the government faced a decision as to whether they would stand by the original visa ban, or lift it in light of the changed border entry requirements.

Djokovic will be allowed to compete for a ninth title at Melbourne Park, a decision that was welcomed by Nadal - though it was met with a mixed reaction in Australia.

The Spanish champion acknowledged that the controversy had been a negative in the lead up to the 2022 tournament, but ultimately felt the right decision had been made.

"Tennis is better when all the best players are on the court. Even if it was a big mess last year, not good for our sport, it's the past," Nadal said.

"Novak able to play again is the best news possible. Happy for him, the tournament, the fans."

The Serbian all-time tennis great revealed on Wednesday that he was "very happy" to receive the news that would allow him to go for a record-extending 10th Australian Open title, and it was confirmed in writing to the world on Thursday morning.

Speaking in Turin after defeating Andrey Rublev at the ATP Finals, the Serbian said: "It's a relief, obviously knowing what I and people closest to me in my life have been through this year with what happened in Australia and post-Australia obviously.

"I could not receive better news for sure - during this tournament as well. Australian Open has been my most successful grand slams. I made some of the best memories there.

"Of course, I want to go back there, I want to play tennis, do what I do best, hopefully have a great Australian summer.

"I'm always thankful to go through experiences, no matter what the experiences are. I try to be optimistic and positive in life.

"I look forward to starting the new year in Australia, and we'll see how the next year goes."

Novak Djokovic free to chase grand slam record at Australian Open

The news came before Djokovic produced one of his performances of the year to outplay Rublev 6-4 6-1 to qualify for the semi-finals of the season-ending event - and he reckoned it may have helped his game out on court.

"Did it affect my game today? I would like to believe it did. Why not? I don't think it did affect me too much because I'm familiar with what I need to do in order to prepare myself for every match," he said.

"Of course, knowing that I have clarity now, what I do in the off-season, starting the season in Australia, also of course it did relieve some of the pressure me and my team felt. Just giving that clarity makes it great for us."

Reports have suggested Novak Djokovic will be permitted to return to Australia by the federal government, after he was banned from the country for three years. (Photo by Shi Tang/Getty Images)
Reports have suggested Novak Djokovic will be permitted to return to Australia by the federal government, after he was banned from the country for three years. (Photo by Shi Tang/Getty Images)

The return of Djokovic had looked on the cards ever since July when Australia scrapped its rule requiring visitors from overseas to declare their COVID vaccination status.

Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley had said Djokovic would be welcome back if he could get a visa, but that Tennis Australia couldn't lobby on his behalf.

After missing the Australian Open and US Open over his COVID-19 stance, the still-unvaccinated Djokovic will now be able to shoot for Rafael Nadal's Melbourne crown while also attempting to equal the Spaniard's men's record of 22 grand slam crowns.

With AAP

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