20-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal won his first singles match of the year before making some strong comments on the Novak Djokovic situation post-match.
Nadal was prompted on Djokovic, to which the Spaniard played a fairly straight bat before speaking of the importance of vaccination against COVID-19.
“I can't have a clear opinion on everything because I don't have all the details, honestly,” Nadal said in his press conference.
“Seems some rough situation, but at the end of the day the only thing that I can say is we have been going through very challenging times and a lot of families have been suffering a lot during the last two years with the pandemic.
“I mean, it's normal that the people here in Australia get very frustrated with the case because they have been going through a lot of very hard lockdowns, and a lot of
people were not able to come back home.
“From my point of view, the only thing that I can say is I believe in what the people who know about medicine say, and if the people say that we need to get vaccinated, we need to get the vaccine. That's my point of view.
“The only clear thing is if you are vaccinated, you can play in the Australian Open and everywhere, and the world in my opinion have been suffering enough to not follow the rules.”
The Spaniard stopped short of telling his rival to get vaccinated but was very strong in his opinion about the benefit of vaccination.
“I don't encourage no one. I feel everyone have to do whatever, whatever feels that is
good for him. But there are rules, and if you don't want to get the vaccine, then you can have some troubles,” Nadal said.
“Of course after a lot of people had been dying for two years, my feeling is the vaccine is the only way to stop this pandemic. That's what the people who understand about this say, and I am no one to create a different opinion.
“I think if he wanted, he would be playing here in Australia without a problem…he made
his own decisions, and everybody is free to take their own decisions, but then there are some consequences.
“In some way I feel sorry for him. But at the same time, he knew the conditions since a lot of months ago, so he makes his own decision.”
Earlier, Nadal was back on the winners’ list as he made a return to Rod Laver Arena at the Melbourne Summer Set.
The Spaniard looked rusty at stages but worked his way through the match to overcome Lithuanian qualifier Ricardas Berankis 6-2, 7-5 in an hour and a half.
It was Nadal's first competitive singles match since losing to Lloyd Harris in the third round of the Citi Open in Washington D.C back in August, 2021. Since then, Nadal had been dealing with an ongoing foot injury that has troubled him for some time.
Nadal’s Australian Open preparations were further interrupted in late 2021 when he contracted COVID-19 in Dubai where he was participating in an exhibition event. Now that the former World No. 1 is injury free, he has his sights set on playing as much tennis as he can.
“First of all super happy to be back on competition and it’s difficult to imagine a better place than here at the beginning of the season in Australia,” Nadal said on court after the win.
“It’s only the first match after a while, I have been going through some difficult, challenging moments over the last year and a half. But in general terms, I am super happy to be back in competition.
“Of course, it is important to start with a victory, that gives me the chance to play again tomorrow and that's the main thing at this moment because I didn’t play for such a long time.
“Here I am, I’m very excited, I just want to play tennis and enjoy it again.”
Nadal will face the winner of Alexei Popyrin and Tallon Greikspoor for a spot in the semis.