Mumbai: Indian tennis doubles player Purav Raja has called the Novak Djokovic visa saga ahead of the start of 2022 Australian Open as ’embarrassing for tennis’.
Djokovic, who is an anti-vaccine advocate, had his visa cancelled upon his arrival in Australia on January 5, which was issued to him on the basis of medical exemption granted to him by Tennis Australia and Victoria State government.
After the cancellation, he spent four nights in an immigration detention hotel before a judge made the decision in Djokovic’s favour.
But Australia’s Immigration Minister Alex Hawke on Friday exercised his powers to cancel Djokovic’s visa on the ground that his presence in the country might excite anti-vaccination sentiment. Djokovic is the defending Australian Open champion in men’s singles and has won three consecutive titles since 2019.
Djokovic’s hopes of defending his Australian Open title hang by a thread as all depends on the hearing in the Federal Court of Australia on Sunday morning.
If Djokovic wins the appeal, he will begin his on-field journey at the Australian Open against unseeded country-mate Miomir Kecmanovic on Monday.
Raja, in a call organised by Sony Sports Network, gave his take on the visa saga surrounding Djokovic.
“I am not the Australian government, so I don’t know my take on it. But I know it, for sure, that it’s embarrassing for tennis. I don’t know what the visa situation was. I don’t know whether he was, you know, he was obviously allowed in the country.
“All I can say is that you know the visa is always subject to immigration. Every visa granted to you by every government is subject to immigration, and the immigration obviously has a problem. So, in theory the Australia government and the immigration have a problem with the tennis association (Tennis Australia) and that leaves us in, you know, in a bit of a soup.”
The Australian Open 2022 will be missing many stalwarts such as Roger Federer and the Williams sisters, Serena and Venus.
Raja believes that the first grand slam of the year might be the start of the generational change in world tennis.
“The change is happening slowly. The change will come and it will be there. It will come very slowly, but the change will come. So, I don’t see one particular slam, the Australian Open being the change.
“The change will gradually come like it came for everything else and we saw everyone retire slowly. So within the next three or four-five years, we will see a change. But tennis is always bigger. Wimbledon is always bigger than the player or Australian Open is always bigger than the player. We are just players. We come and go. But the tennis stays on and the and the tournaments live on and we play in those tournaments.”
The 36-year-old Raja, who has been signed up as an expert by Sony Sports alongside former tennis players Somdev Devvarman and Gaurav Natekar, signed off by predicting that the Australian Open will see a new women’s champion, and if Djokovic gets the all-clear to play, the men’s draw will become tougher.
“I would have said a Novak Djokovic slam. But I can’t say that right now because I don’t know enough and I expect the new women’s champion from anyone not seen before. I put my little piece of advice in a new Grand Slam women’s champion, and if Novak plays, it’s tough.”
In India, the Australian Open will be broadcast on Sony Six, Sony Ten 2 and 4 channels in English and on Sony Ten 3 in Hindi.