Andy Murray described the re-escalation of Novak Djokovic’s visa saga as “not great for tennis, not great for the Australian Open and not great for Novak,” after the Serb’s hopes of playing in the first grand slam of the year were left hanging by a thread on Friday.
Murray was one of a number of current and former players to express their frustration at the continuing situation after Australia’s immigration minister, Alex Hawke, exercised his powers to revoke Djokovic’s visa for a second time.
While Djokovic will spend the 48 hours before he is due to play his first match on Monday at the Australian Open being detained at a secret location and watching a final hearing to determine his status, Murray will play in his first ATP Tour final in just over two years.
Speaking after defeating Reilly Opelka in the last four of the Sydney Classic, a visibly frustrated Murray said of the topic that has dominated the buildup to Melbourne: “It’s unfortunate that it’s ended up in this sort of situation … [I] just want it to get resolved. I think it would be good for everyone if that was the case. It just seems like it’s dragged on for quite a long time now, and yeah, not great for the tennis, not great for the Australian Open, not great for Novak.”
Boris Becker, who coached Djokovic from 2013 to 2016, acknowledged that “no tennis player is bigger than a tournament” but also told BBC Sport: “It is a political game he got involved in and that’s unfortunate.”
The announcement at close to 6pm on a Friday evening local time that Djokovic’s visa was being cancelled again had drawn mixed reaction on social media, with many Australians believing it was the right decision to stick to the initial decision by the Australian Border Force the unvaccinated player did not meet federal law and should be deported.
Others, however, bemoaned the long drawn-out process that they said allowed Scott Morrison’s government to distract attention from pandemic-related supply chain and testing issues.
The seven-times grand slam champion, Justine Henin, argued that given most public sentiment seemed to favour the government’s decision, that Djokovic would be better off heading home.
“I think it’s the best thing he doesn’t play at the moment,” she said. “When something is so complicated, I don’t say that Djokovic doesn’t have to fight, because he thought it was the right thing to do, but I think now it’s been proved that so many Australian people don’t want him to play. So maybe it’s better for everyone, for tennis, for the tournament, and maybe for him, that he doesn’t play the tournament.”
The well-respected coach Darren Cahill, who has worked with Andre Agassi and Simona Halep among others, said that there were no winners amid the fallout and that the sacrifices of the Australian people in enduring long lockdowns and strict vaccine mandates should have been prioritised.
“Fault lies everywhere here,” Cahill tweeted. “It’s been a mess. Novak, TA [Tennis Australia], Vic Gov, Federal Gov. It should’ve been a hard rule entering this country considering what the folks have been thru. Get vaccinated and come play the AO, or if not maybe see you in 23. No wiggle room.”