TENNIS

Nadal: I'd much rather Djokovic didn't play at Australian Open!

With Novak Djokovic now closer to appearing at the Australian Open, Rafa Nadal conceded that the Serb's involvement would hurt his prospects of victory.

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Rafael Nadal: I'd much rather Novak Djokovic didn't play at Australian Open!

Rafa Nadal joked he'd "much rather" Novak Djokovic didn't feature at this month's Australian Open after the Serb was handed a court reprieve in his battle to remain in the country.

Djokovic was left fighting for the right to compete at the opening grand slam of the year, a tournament he has won nine times, after authorities cancelled his visa last week.

A medical exemption was expected to allow the Serbian to enter the country, regardless of his vaccination status, which he has yet to formally disclose.

But the Australian Border Force declared Djokovic had been ordered to fly out of the country on Thursday, sparking a challenge to that decision by the tennis star's legal team.

After both sides had presented their cases, Djokovic was handed an Australian Open lifeline on Monday when defeating a deportation order brought by Australia's government.

Judge overturns cancellation of Djokovic's visa

Judge Anthony Kelly ruled at Melbourne Circuit Court that Djokovic's visa cancellation order should be "quashed" immediately.

There may yet be another twist in the saga, though, as Australia's immigration minister Alex Hawke could still cancel the 34-year-old's visa on new grounds.

Djokovic now appears far more likely to defend his Australian Open crown than he did over the weekend, however, as he goes in search of a 21st major title.

"The justice system has spoken" - Nadal respects ruling but reiterates support for covid-19 vaccine

While that will inevitably make Nadal's chances of success at Melbourne Park a whole lot tougher, the Spaniard said the decision to grant Djokovic's freedom must be respected.

"Whether or not I agree with Djokovic on some things, the justice system has spoken and has said that he has the right to participate in the Australian Open," he told Onda Cero.

"I think it is the fairest decision to do so, if it has been resolved that way. I wish him the best of luck. But on a personal level, I'd much rather he didn't play!"

Nadal described Djokovic's covid-19 vaccination controversy as "a circus" and reiterated that the vaccine "is the way to stop this pandemic and disaster".

The 35-year-old ramped up his preparations for the Australian Open by winning last week's Melbourne Summer Set without dropping a single set.

That was Nadal's first tournament in five months due to injury and means he has won at least one ATP Tour trophy in every season since 2004 onwards.

He is level with Djokovic and fellow great Roger Federer on 20 grand slam titles, with the trio locked in a race to finish with the most majors.