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By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Friday January 14, 2022

Alex de Minaur

On media day in Melbourne, many top players moved to distance themselves from the Djokovic controversy as they zero in on the tennis.

Photo Source: ATP Cup

As Novak Djokovic’s fate hangs in the balance, with a 0930 court hearing scheduled for Sunday morning in Melbourne, some players are distancing themselves from the controversy and expressing their belief that now is the time to start talking tennis.

Tennis Express

It may not happen – at least for another day – with so much fervent media attention firmly focused on the World No.1 and his ongoing battle with the Australian government who revoked his visa for the second time on Friday night, but players are hopeful that at some point the focus will be shifted onto the court, where world-class tennis is set to be played.

Alex de Minaur, the No.32 seed in the men's singles draw, and his peers at the Australian Open are eager to take some of the spotlight that has been unwittingly commandeered by Djokovic in the lead up to the Australian Open.

“This whole situation has taken a lot of spotlight away from us competitors,” De Minaur told reporters during his press conference, one of many that took place on the first Australian Open media day in Melbourne. “We're here to play the Australian Open. We're here on our own terms ready to compete, hopefully have a very good couple weeks.”

Garbiñe Muguruza shared a similar sentiment. The No.3 seed said she’s ready to turn her attention to what is about to transpire on the court – whether Djokovic plays or not.

“I think we all want to move on, whatever it is, move on and focus on the cool aspect of starting a slam,” she said.

Stefanos Tsitsipas? He wants to talk about tennis as well.

"[Djokovic's controversy] has received a lot of attention, as I said," he told reporters. "Not enough tennis has been talked about in the last couple of weeks, which is a shame."

There is also a detectable bit of frustration voiced by these players, who believe that Djokovic could have avoided this whole process by simply getting vaccinated.

“I think all this could have been avoided, like we've all done, by getting vaccinated, doing all the things we had to do to come here in Australia. Everybody knew very clearly the rules. You just have to follow them and that's it. I don't think it's that difficult,” Muguruza said.

De Minaur is anxious to put his fast-flying sneakers on the court. He absolutely loves playing for Australia. He’d rather talk tennis than talk about Djokovic’s court appeal.

“It feels like it's taking away from us competitors who just want to start,” he said. “We're just eager to go out and compete. The Australian Open is always an incredible event, my home slam, my favorite tournament. To be honest, I'm just ready to put all of this behind me and focus on playing my tennis matches, kind of let my tennis do the talking.”

20-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal hinted on Friday, during his press conference, that even if Djokovic’s appeal fails and the Serb isn’t granted permission to remain in the country, the Australian Open will be a brilliant event.

He was asked how different the 2022 Aussie Open would look without Djokovic in the draw. “I tell you one thing, it's very clear that Novak Djokovic is one of the best players of the history, without a doubt,” he said. “But there is no one player in history that's more important than an event, no? The players stays and then goes, and other players are coming. No one, even Roger, Novak, myself, Bjorn Borg who was amazing at his times, tennis keep going.

“Australian Open is much more important than any player. If he's playing finally, okay. If he's not playing, Australian Open will be great Australian Open with or without him. That's my point of view.”

De Minaur sympathizes with the Aussie people, and seemed to echo the sentiment expressed by Muguruza, and many others.

If you wanted to play, you should have been vaccinated.

“Australians have gone through a lot,” he said. “There's no secret about that. They've had it very tough. They've done a lot of work to protect themselves and their borders. When you're coming in, as well as every other tennis player, if you wanted to come into the country, you had to be double vaccinated. It was up to him, his choices, his judgment.”


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