Leading players at the Australian Open said on Saturday that they were fed up with Novak Djokovic’s story of shadowing the first Grand Slam of the year and wanted a spotlight on tennis again.
The lead in the tournament is dominated by the battle to compete at Melbourne Park against the government trying to deport world number one Djokovic after his visa was revoked twice.
Djokovic, skeptical of the vaccine, sparked widespread outrage in Australia when he announced last week that he was going to Melbourne with medical exemption for requisites to inoculate visitors against COVID-19.
“I will not lie. That’s pretty much every news outlet in the last few weeks, ”Greek fourth-ranked Stefanos Sitsipas told reporters at Melbourne Park two days before the start of the tournament on Monday.
“There’s not been enough talk about tennis in the last few weeks, which is a shame.”
Djokovic’s bid to defend his title and claim a record 21st Grand Slam championship without being vaccinated angered the Australian public amid the fugitive fury of the Omicron variant, but made him a hero of the anti-waxer movement.
After revoking his visa for the second time on Friday, Serb will fight to overturn the decision in a court hearing on Sunday.
“This whole situation has taken a lot of the spotlight away from our competitors,” 32-ranked Australian number one Alex de Minor told reporters.
“It simply came to our notice then. We just look forward to going out and competing.
“To be honest, I’m willing to put all this behind me and focus on playing my tennis match, let my tennis talk.”
De Minor declined to comment on Djokovic, but said that his decision not to be vaccinated contradicted what ordinary Australians needed to do.
Australia has suffered some of the longest lockdowns in the world and the vaccination rate among adults is 90%.
“Look, Australians have gone through a lot (during the epidemic). It’s no secret about that, ”he said.
“It was very difficult for them. They have worked hard to protect themselves and their borders.
“When you come, as well as every other tennis player, if you want to come to the country, you have to get a double vaccination. It was his decision, his choice. “
Australian Open women’s champion Naomi Osaka said Djokovic’s position was to be decided by the government, not the players.
However, following a row with the organizers over mandatory media commitments, she became the focus of attention when she withdrew from the French Open, feeling a little sympathy for the struggling Serbs.
“It simply came to our notice then. He’s such a great player and he’s kind of sad that some people can remember him that way, “said the 13th-ranked Japanese player.
“I know what it feels like to be in a situation where you are asked about that person, just to see other players’ comments, that’s not the biggest thing. We’re just trying to keep it positive. “