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No one will mistake Novak Djokovic for the most popular player among his counterparts on the ATP Tour. But following his visa cancellation and deportation ahead of the Australian Open, players have come to Djokovic’s side in his fight with how the situation played out.
“Nole always has and always will be class,” American John Isner said. “He’s an absolute legend in my book that has brought so much good to millions around the world. This isn’t right.”
Former top player Andy Murray also criticized how the situation was handled.
“I don’t like that [Djokovic] is in this situation and I don’t like that he has been in detention,” Murray told the BBC. “The situation has not been good all round for anyone. It feels like everything here happened extremely last minute and that’s why it became such a mess. Hopefully that won’t be the case at other events so there is no other situation like this. I wouldn’t want that for Novak, don’t want that for tennis and hopefully it is done now.”
Djokovic, 34, originally received a medical exemption for being unvaccinated against COVID-19. Upon his arrival in Australia, though, the exemption was revoked and he was detained. Djokovic got that decision overturned, but immigration minister Alex Hawke stepped in, leading to the world No. 1 being deported before he had a chance to win his record 21st Grand Slam title.
The situation has completely overshadowed the tournament’s buildup, a fact lamented by players.
“Honestly, I’m a little bit tired of the situation because I just believe that it’s important to talk about our sport, about tennis,” Rafael Nadal told reporters.
Alize Cornet, the No. 1 player on the women’s side, said on Twitter: “I know too little to judge the situation. What I know is that Novak is always the first one to stand for the players. But none of us stood for him.”
Even Nick Kyrgios, who had criticized Djokovic in the past, posted a facepalm emoji in response to the situation.
Salvatore Caruso, the world No. 150, will take Djokovic’s place in the draw as a Lucky Loser and play on Monday.