Novak Djokovic has admitted that his wife wanted Rafael Nadal to miss out on Grand Slam glory at the Australian Open after the Serb was deported on the eve of last month’s tournament. Djokovic was prevented from taking part in the first Slam of the new year after he was forced out of the country amid concerns over his vaccination status.
Djokovic was detained shortly upon his arrival in Australia before he was released and then detained again due to the government’s stance on his medical exemption to gain entry.
He was eventually forced to return to Serbia after a last-gasp appeal was rejected out of hand, leaving him unable to compete at the event.
The controversial situation raised plenty of additional questions over whether Djokovic will be prevented from playing at this year’s remaining Majors if he fails to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
He is now behind Nadal in the all-time standings, with the latter clinching his 21st career Grand Slam title in Melbourne in the absence of his long-term rival.
Djokovic admitted in a wide-ranging BBC interview on Tuesday evening that he found it difficult to watch the Australian Open from home, claiming that his wife was cheering against Nadal while his son was rooting for the Spaniard during his final match-up with Daniil Medvedev.
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“I found it so difficult to watch,” said Djokovic.
“I was very neutral, I didn’t cheer for anyone because I wanted to be there so badly. But I was amused by the circumstances.
“My wife was cheering for Medvedev, my son was cheering for Nadal and every point that Rafa would make, Stefan would be jumping around.”
Djokovic went on to reveal that his son recently expressed his admiration for Nadal by asking if he could take a picture with him when his father returns to the Grand Slam circuit.
He added: “He asked me a few days ago when I was putting him to sleep: ‘When is the next tournament that you are going to participate and play where Rafa is going to be also?’
“I said: ‘I’m not sure, I hope very soon, why are you asking me that?’ And he said: ‘Because I would really love to take a photo with Rafa!’
“We’ll arrange that, I’m sure.”
Djokovic was also asked about where his future lies after appearing to rule himself out of Grand Slam contention for the foreseeable future by doubling down on his stance against the vaccine.
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He admitted that he was not obsessed with the possibility of breaking Nadal’s record between now and his eventual retirement, insisting that he is still playing tennis for his love of the game and nothing else.
“I’ve been blessed with some amazing results that I’ve made throughout my career,” continued Djokovic.
“I hope that I can still continue to make and break records in the future, but it’s not the most essential thing.
“I play tennis because I still feel a connection with the inner child, the four-year-old boy who took a racquet and said: ‘I love this sport, I want to play it all day’.”