Rafael Nadal said Novak Djokovic could have avoided the controversy surrounding his arrival in Australia if he had simply been vaccinated against Covid-19, while stating the world No 1 is now facing the "consequences" of his decisions.
Djokovic, who has never revealed his vaccination status but revealed last year that he was "opposed" to being mandatorily vaccinated, was granted a medical exemption to compete at the Australian Open. But the Serb was stopped by border officials on arrival to Australia late on Wednesday and his visa cancelled for failing to meet strict pandemic entry requirements.
Djokovic faces deportation but has launched a court challenge to stay in the country and play at this month's Australian Open, where he is the defending and record nine-time champion. His appeal has been adjourned until Monday morning in Melbourne, court officials said, and he has been told by the Federal Court of Australia that he can remain in Melbourne until his appeal resumes.
Nadal, who contracted Covid-19 last month after returning to Spain from Abu Dhabi, said he was a big believer in getting vaccinated to stem a pandemic in which "a lot of people had been dying".
"I went through the Covid, I have been vaccinated twice. If you do this, you don't have any problem to play here. That's the only clear thing," the Spaniard said in Melbourne after winning his first singles match on the ATP Tour since August.
"For me, the only clear thing is if you are vaccinated, you can play in the Australian Open and everywhere, and the world, in my opinion, has been suffering enough to not follow the rules.
"He made his own decisions and everybody is free to take their own decisions, but then there are some consequences," he added of Djokovic.
"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 since a lot of months ago, so he makes his own decision."
Djokovic had said on Instagram this week that he had obtained an exemption to play in the Australian Open. News of his exemption sparked outrage in a country that has endured many months of restrictions and lockdowns, and Nadal said he understood the reaction.
"A lot of families have been suffering a lot during the last two years with all the pandemic," he said. "I mean, it's normal that the people here in Australia get very frustrated with the (Djokovic) case because they have been going through a lot of very hard lockdowns, and a lot of people were not able to come back home."
The Australian Open starts on January 17 and if Djokovic does not play, Russian world No 2 Daniil Medvedev will be the top seed. Medvedev said his views on the saga were "quite straightforward".
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"If he has an exemption, well, he should be here. If something was wrong with the papers and they didn't let him in, well, that's what happens sometimes," the US Open champion said in Sydney. "I have a lot of problems with visas in my career."
Italian world No 7 Matteo Berrettini, whom Medvedev beat at the ATP Cup on Thursday, expressed "some sympathy" for the predicament that Djokovic finds himself in. But, like Nadal, he understands the backlash in Australia.
"Nobody wants to be in that situation," he said. "But at same time, I can understand why Australian people obviously feel like they do. I think Melbourne had the longest lockdown in the world, so I can understand these people."