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Tennis-Djokovic needs our support, Kyrgios tells players

Randy Mancini 5 Jan 15
FILE PHOTO: Tennis: National Bank Open
FILE PHOTO: Aug 9, 2021; Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Nick Kyrgios of Australia returns a ball to Reilly Opelka of the United States (not pictured) at Aviva Centre. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

January 16, 2022

MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Nick Kyrgios said Novak Djokovic has thanked him for his support during his visa controversy but the Australian called on his fellow professionals to stand up for the world number one as he awaits a court verdict on whether he can remain in the country.

Three Federal Court judges will decide Djokovic’s fate after a rollercoaster 10 days that saw him detained by authorities, released and then detained again ahead of the Australian Open, which starts on Monday.

Djokovic, who is not vaccinated for COVID-19, is appealing Immigration Minister Alex Hawke’s use of discretionary powers to cancel his visa again.

“Novak has reached out to me personally on IG (Instagram) saying, ‘Thank you for standing up for me’,” Kyrgios said on his ‘No Boundaries Podcast’.

“I was not the one he was expecting to go out in the media and have his back.”

Kyrgios, who labelled Djokovic a “tool” after he sought to improve players’ quarantine conditions ahead of last year’s tournament, has emerged as an unlikely ally for the Serb, saying he was “embarrassed” by the way he has been treated.

Spaniard Rafa Nadal, who is tied with Djokovic on 20 major titles, said “too many questions” still needed to be answered concerning the Serb’s bid to play at the Australian Open, while other leading players lamented how the year’s first Grand Slam has been overshadowed by the saga.

Kyrgios said Djokovic would be feeling alienated and urged his fellow professionals to back him, though some have been critical of his decision to arrive in Melbourne with a medical exemption instead of being vaccinated.

“On a human level, he needs support from other players,” Kyrgios said. “(Stefanos) Tsitsipas, I get you have your views on vaccination.

“(Andy) Murray, we can always count on you to say the right thing. Nadal, whatever. But bro, where is your support for the guy?

“I feel like we’re just trying to fight things that aren’t right, it’s not about the vaccination anymore, it’s just about him not being here on the right visa or his visa being cancelled,” he added.

“I feel so sorry for him.”

(Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly; Editing by Peter Rutherford)