Nadal to Djokovic: No vaccine, no game




By Fred Edoreh with Chibuike Edekobi


World tennis star, Rafael Nadal, has lent voice to the controversy surrounding Novak Djokovic’s bid to play in the 2022 Australia Open without being vaccinated, advising Djokovic to show higher sense of responsibility as a role model in the face of the continuing scourge of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Nadal and Rod Laver, also a celebrated Australian tennis star, faulted Novak Djokovic for not declaring his vaccination status and also refusing to disclose the medical reasons for the exemption granted him.

Djokovic, defending champion and nine-time Australia Open Grand Slam winner had refused to disclose his vaccination status but flew to Melbourne for the competition on the strength of “medical exemption” said to have been granted him by Tennis Australia and the Independent Exemption Panel.

He was however refused entry by the country’s immigration service who insist he must provide sufficient evidence to back the basis of the said exemption.

Djokovic has so far not disclosed as requested, prompting the Border Force to revoke his entry visa with further decision to deport him but his lawyers promptly launched an appeal.

Arising from the disagreement, Djokovic has been isolated at the Park Hotel in Carlton, Melbourne, pending the determination of the appeal which Judge Anthony Kelly has fixed for next Tuesday while documents are expected to be filed through the weekend.

The judge declined
Tennis Australia and his lawyers’ plea for an expedited verdict insisting that “the tail cannot wag the dog.”

Both Djokovic’s father, Srdjan, and Serbia’s President Aleksander Vucic, have been kicking on what they have described as “harassment” of Djokovic, with pockets of protesters also insisting that Djokovic should be given free way, but Australia’s Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, insists that “no one is above the laid down rules” meant to safeguard the country, its citizens and visitors against the spread of Covid.

Australia’s Home Affairs Minister, Karen Andrews has also explained that Djokovic is not under any harassment nor captivity and is free to leave the country anytime he chooses to but will not be allowed to get into town if he remains adamant to the need to meet the requirements of the country.

Reacting on the controversy,
Rafael Nadal has urged Djokovic to take the COVID-19 vaccine as a matter not only for his safety and that of others but as a matter of responsibility, given his position as a global role model or forget about playing in the tournament.

“The only thing that I can say is I believe in what the people who know about medicine say, and if those people say that we need to get vaccinated, we need to get the vaccine. That is my point of view,” Nadal said.

“The world in my opinion has been suffering enough to not follow the rules. I went through COVID. I have been vaccinated twice. If you do this, you don’t have any problem to play here.”

“I think if he wanted, he would be playing here in Australia without a problem (but) he went through another – he made his own decisions, and everybody is free to take their own decisions, but then there are some consequences.

“Of course, I don’t like the situation that is happening. In some way I feel sorry for him but at the same time, he knew the conditions a lot of months ago, so he makes his own decision.”

Also adding voice, Australian tennis icon, Rod Laver, has called on Djokovic to come clean by disclosing the reasons for his exemption to bring a closure to the controversy.

“If he’s got a reason then… we should know it,” Laver said.

“Yes, you’re a great player and you’ve performed and won so many tournaments, so it can’t be physical. So what is the problem?”