Stefanos Tsitsipas accuses Novak Djokovic of making Australian Open players 'look like fools'

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Stefanos Tsitsipas - Stefanos Tsitsipas accuses Novak Djokovic of making Australian Open players 'look like fools' - SHUTTERSTOCK
Stefanos Tsitsipas - Stefanos Tsitsipas accuses Novak Djokovic of making Australian Open players 'look like fools' - SHUTTERSTOCK

One of Novak Djokovic's main rivals has accused the world No 1 of making vaccinated players "look like fools" at the Australian Open.

World No 4 Stefanos Tsitsipas attacked Djokovic for "playing by his own rules" while the vast majority of competitors had got the jab "in order to come and perform".

Tensions between players surfaced as the Serb was finally poised to find out whether he faced deportation following his drawn out visa wrangle.

As the Australian Government edged closer to an announcement, Tsitsipas became the third top-five player to suggest he would not be disappointed if Djokovic was forced to leave.

The Greek player, who lost to Djokovic in last year's Roland Garros final, said arriving in Australia without having the vaccine was effectively putting the grand slam at risk.

"The stats say 98 per cent of players have been vaccinated and did what they had to do in order to come and perform and play in Australia," he told Indian network WIO News.

"For sure, he's been playing by his own rules and has been doing what not many players had the guts to do, especially after the ATP announced certain criteria for players to enter the country. No one really thought they could come to Australia unvaccinated and not having to follow the protocols... it takes a lot of daring to do that and putting the grand slam at risk, which I don't think many players would do."

A total of 97 of the top 100 male players are vaccinated, according to the ATP. World No 93 Tennys Sandgren pulled out of the Australian Open due to the vaccine mandate.

Tsitsipas's concerns around Djokovic attempting to circumnavigate the rules came after both Rafael Nadal and world No 2 Daniil Medvedev reacted coolly to the Serb's conduct. "When somebody wins it nine times, he's not there, the draw opens up a little bit," said the Russian of the prospect of Djokovic being forced out.

Djokovic had spent his third full day back in training in Melbourne after a court ruled he could be released from his quarantine hotel. However, authorities were examining other alleged discrepancies related to the case before making a final decision on whether he could remain in the country.

Tsitsipas said: "There are two ways to look at it. One side of it is that almost every single player is fully vaccinated... and have followed the protocols to play in Australia. On the other hand, it seems not everyone is playing by the rules... a very small majority chose to follow their own way, which kind of makes the majority look like fools."

Alleged discrepancies in Djokovic's account included his agent wrongly stating on his Australian Travel Declaration that he had not travelled in the 14 days prior to his arrival in Melbourne. German newspaper Der Spiegel has also suggested his positive test may have occurred 10 days later than stated in documents submitted to his deportation court hearing.

Despite the uncertainty around him, Djokovic had been drawn against fellow countryman Miomir Kecmanovic in the first round.

Earlier this week Nadal had described Djokovic's visa controversy as "a circus". Nadal, who is vaccinated, said allowing him to play "is the fairest decision to do", but he joked: "On a personal level, I’d much rather he didn’t play!"

On Thursday, the Australian prime minister, Scott Morrison, suggested Djokovic would not be allowed to stay unless he could substantiate a medical exemption allowing him to be unvaccinated against Covid.