ATP

Nadal would 'welcome' Djokovic playing slams if he can do so unvaccinated

By Sports Desk February 21, 2022

Rafael Nadal would "welcome" seeing Novak Djokovic play at future grand slam tournaments if he is granted permission to do so unvaccinated against COVID-19.

World number one Djokovic has courted controversy for his views on being jabbed and was last month deported from Australia on the eve of the Australian Open.

Djokovic has confirmed he is willing to miss future slams after stating he was prioritising his right to choose what to put into his body above his sporting ambitions.

In Djokovic's absence, Nadal became Australian Open champion and now has 21 titles – the most for a male player.

Nadal believes that any further omissions from Djokovic would only be harmful to the Serbian's chances of history not the slams themselves, but he would have no issue with his rival playing in the sport's biggest tournaments.

Speaking ahead of his return to the ATP Tour in Acapulco, Nadal said: "It will affect Novak's [grand slam] history if he can't play.

"It will affect him, not the grand slams themselves. Whoever wins the most slams – it will be what it will be. Everyone takes their own decisions and must live with them.

"In that sense, hopefully the pandemic subsides and we stop having so many deaths around the world and this horror ends, and we can return to normality – not for Novak but for the world in general.

"There are many people that have suffered, but if Novak can play the grand slams unvaccinated, then he is welcome."

 

Nadal defeated Daniil Medvedev in an epic Melbourne showpiece to become the first man to 21 slams, but he says the achievement has not changed his life.

"Absolutely nothing has changed having 21 slams, I won't lie to you," he added.

"From 20 to 21 there is not a very large difference. Life goes on exactly the same. The only thing that has changed is that now I play tennis, which a few months ago I couldn't.

"I am very happy for everything that happened in Australia, it was very unexpected, especially before the tournament started. In my life, nothing has changed. No title is going to change what is important in my life, which are other things.

"Already, at 35 years old, I have a lot of experiences behind me, of successes and bad moments and these sensations already help me to live in a more calm and different way."

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  • Wimbledon: 'Phew! I am lucky!' – Djokovic relieved to get job done just before curfew Wimbledon: 'Phew! I am lucky!' – Djokovic relieved to get job done just before curfew

    Novak Djokovic beat Tim van Rijthoven on Sunday to take his place in the Wimbledon quarter-finals, and was very relieved to get the job done ahead of the 23:00BST curfew.

    World number one Djokovic saw off the Wimbledon debutant 6-2 4-6 6-1 6-2 on Centre Court to set up an intriguing last-eight clash with Jannik Sinner.

    The contest did not go all the defending champion's way, however, as Van Rijthoven's display in the second set suggested Djokovic would have to dig deep.

    But the Serb's response was emphatic as he went on drop just three games in the following two sets, blowing the 25-year-old Dutchman away impressively to reach a 13th Wimbledon quarter-final.

    It was also Djokovic's 25th successive win at Wimbledon, a sequence that has only ever been bettered three times in SW19.

    For a while there seemed to be a real threat of Van Rijthoven taking the match into a second day, with the curfew looming.

    Djokovic suggested he was not entirely aware of the deadline, and that only increased his relief after clinching victory with 22 minutes to spare.

    Speaking on court afterwards, Djokovic said: "I don't know if there was a curfew, 11pm? Is that still on? Okay, phew!

    "I am lucky, I am lucky. It's only 20 minutes, too, so I'm lucky. I have had some previous experience of playing a match over two days under the roof against [Rafael] Nadal some years ago, and it's never really pleasant if you can't finish the match the same day.

    "I am glad I did and now I am just looking forward to the next challenge."

    Specifically on Van Rijthoven, Djokovic added: "He was very tough, he's kind of a new face on the tour and actually won his first ATP match in the tournament he won a few weeks ago in his country, beating players in top five, top 10 in the world.

    "He was on a streak on this surface, so I knew it wasn't going to be easy with that serve and a lot of talent, great touch and a powerful forehand. He can do a lot of damage.

    "It took me a little bit of time to get used to his pace, and the conditions under the roof are a little bit different, a bit slippery, so it takes a bit of adjusting, but overall I closed out the match well."

  • Wimbledon: Djokovic survives 'very tough' battle with Van Rijthoven to set up Sinner showdown Wimbledon: Djokovic survives 'very tough' battle with Van Rijthoven to set up Sinner showdown

    Novak Djokovic stared danger in the face and scared it off in inimitable fashion as Wimbledon's defending champion scored a late-night win over Tim van Rijthoven.

    Chasing a fourth successive title at the All England Club, Djokovic shrugged off the jolt of dropping the second set to scorch through the next two and secure a 6-2 4-6 6-1 6-2 victory in the fourth-round contest.

    Having been part of an early-afternoon parade of champions, marking Centre Court's centenary, six-time Wimbledon king Djokovic returned to the arena and served a reminder of why he has become so difficult to beat. This was his 25th consecutive match win in the men's singles at Wimbledon, and only Bjorn Borg (41), Roger Federer (40) and Pete Sampras (31) have had more in a row.

    Van Rijthoven's fairy-tale rise to prominence during this grass-court season has included wins over world number one Daniil Medvedev and Felix Auger-Aliassime at the Rosmalen Grass Court Championships. The victory over Medvedev came in the final, with Van Rijthoven's ranking jumping from 205th to 106th on the ATP list, Wimbledon swiftly proffering a wildcard.

    Seeds Reilly Opelka and Nikoloz Basilashvili both fell to Van Rijthoven in Wimbledon's early rounds, and when he sealed the second set against Djokovic with back-to-back aces, it fuelled the Dutchman's belief that he might add an even greater scalp.

    A dazzling backhand from Djokovic set up break point in game two of the third set, and with a curfew of 23:00BST, the Serbian knew he needed to hurry up. Van Rijthoven speared a forehand long and the break was established, at 21:43BST.

    Djokovic surged 5-0 ahead; and although Van Rijthoven spared himself a 'bagel', the damage had been done. Soon the top seed was a set away from the finish line, all across his opponent's game, and Van Rijthoven knew the jig was up. That finish line was crossed at 22:38BST. Djokovic said it had been a "very tough" battle, but he survives and faces Jannik Sinner next.

    Data slam: Poles apart, and eventually it showed

    Where Van Rijthoven has one ATP-level title, Djokovic has 87. The 35-year-old Serbian remains the firm favourite to be holding the trophy on Centre Court next Sunday, that second set notwithstanding. Djokovic's resilient effort against a man in form means there has still never been an incidence of the men's singles top seed losing to a wildcard at a grand slam in the Open Era (since 1968).

    WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS
    Djokovic – 28/19
    Van Rijthoven – 41/53

    ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS
    Djokovic – 7/2
    Van Rijthoven – 20/5

    BREAK POINTS WON
    Djokovic – 6/17
    Van Rijthoven – 1/4

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