“I think we all want to keep going, whatever it is, and focus on the cool aspect of starting a slam,” two-time grand slam champion Garbine Muguruza said during a media day.
“I think all of this could have been prevented, as we have all done, by getting vaccinated, doing all the things we had to do to get here in Australia.
“Everyone knew the rules very clearly. You just have to follow them and that’s it. I think it’s not that difficult.”
Muguruza, who reached the final of the Australian Open in 2020, is worried that the ongoing controversy will have a negative impact on the sport’s reputation.
Djokovic is currently being held by Australian authorities ahead of a court hearing Sunday on his case to stay in the country.
Australia’s immigration minister Alex Hawke on Friday withdrew the non-vaccinated tennis champion’s visa for a second time, saying his presence in Australia could lead to an “increase in anti-vaccination sentiment” and even “civil unrest”.
“I do not think this would help the tennis world or the players, because in the end there is always a bit of conflict,” Muguruza added.
“It’s already hard enough to win the tournaments and to make the WTA and ATP circuit country by country to make all this news, a lot.”
‘An unfortunate situation’
If Djokovic manages to qualify for this year’s tournament, he will have the chance to win a record-breaking 21st Grand Slam title for men.
He currently shares the record with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, but the latter says the tournament will still be a success, even if the Serb cannot play.
“I’m telling you one thing, it’s very clear that Novak Djokovic is one of the best players in history, without a doubt,” Nadal told reporters. “But there is no single player in history who is more important than an event, no?
“The Australian Open is much more important than any player. If he ends up playing, OK. If he does not play, the Australian Open will be a great Australian Open with or without him. That is my point of view.”
Defending Australian Open champion Naomi Osaka says she’s sad about what she’s seen. “I think it’s an unfortunate situation,” she told reporters.
“He’s such a great player and it’s a shame some people can remember him this way.
“But I also think it’s not up to tennis players, it’s up to the government how Australia decides to deal with it.”
‘It’s their rules’
Daniil Medvedev, ranked 2nd in the world, thwarted Djokovic’s quest to reach a calendar grand slam – winning all four majors in the same calendar year – in 2021 when the Russian won the US Open final against the Serbs.
The pair could meet again in the final of the Australian Open this year, both should go so far ahead, but Medvedev says the rules of the country must be followed.
“I want to say about Novak’s situation that we are in Australia, it’s their rules,” he told reporters.
“But from what I know, again, if he has a valid exemption to be in this country and do what he wants, then he has to play.
“If the exemption is not valid or something else is not valid, well, then any country can deny your entry.”
The Australian Open is set to begin on Monday, but whether Djokovic is in the lottery remains to be decided by a court.
CNN’s Jill Martin contributed to reporting.