Novak Djokovic’s long-time coach Marian Vajda has slammed the Australian media for their treatment of the world No.1 and doesn’t believe vaccination mandates will be a death knell for the 20-time Grand Slam champ’s career.
Djokovic’s quest for a record 21st Grand Slam title has been dealt a major blow with Roland-Garros indicating that unvaccinated players would not be allowed to participate, just days after the Serbian had his visa cancelled by Australia.
Vajda, who has coached Djokovic for all bar one season over the past 15 years, expressed his frustration at the Immigration Minister’s decision to deport the Serbian.
“I needed to calm down. I still don’t understand why they did it to him,” Vajda told Slovakian site Aktuality.sk
Tennis Australia boss faces scrutiny over testing protocols
“It was an unhealthy and unjust decision, based on the assumption that Djokovic could do or influence something that had not yet happened.”
Vajda also criticised Australian media for “manipulating the information” during the entire visa saga, to turn the public on the world No.1.
While he expressed sympathy for Djokovic’s plight, Vadja believes the Serbian superstar will be able to bounce back, saying he has “not yet said his last word in tennis”.
“I can’t imagine how he handled it. It must have been a huge suffering,” Vajda said.
“He humbly endured all measures. But what they did to him must mark him. It is clear that it hit him mentally. It will hurt him for a long time and it will be difficult to get it out of his head.
“However, I know him very well. Novak is strong, resolute and has not yet said his last word in tennis.”
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While Djokovic’s absence may hit the top-ranked player hard, his absence from the Australian Open has created opportunities for fellow Serb, Miomir Kecmanovic.
Having avoided what would have been a formidable first-round round assignment against the nine-time champion, the 22-year-old Kecmanovic has put together three straight wins to reach the fourth round of a Grand Slam tournament for the first time.
The Belgrade native’s confidence soared after beating Salvatore Caruso — the so-called lucky loser from qualifying who was elevated to the main draw after Djokovic’s deportation — then Tommy Paul and 25th-seeded Lorenzo Sonego to earn a shot at No. 17-seeded Gael Monfils.
“It’s unbelievable,” Kecmanovic said. “A week ago I was supposed to play the world No. 1 and didn’t have much of a chance there, but now I’m in the last 16.
“So I’m happy that I was able to use this chance and that I’ve been playing some really good tennis.”
He won only a handful of games when he played Djokovic in the Serbia Open last year and wasn’t expecting a lot more when the Australian Open draw was made last week.
Djokovic was deported on the eve of the tournament for not meeting Australia’s strict COVID-19 vaccination requirements, giving Kecmanovic an opener against a player ranked in the 140s instead of No. 1.
“I didn’t have much pressure just because I felt that I got a second chance, so I just wanted to use it the best that I can,” he said. “I’ve obviously been showing that well up until now.”
Kecmanovic had never previously ventured past the second round at a Grand Slam event, so now he’s guaranteed his biggest payday with at least $328,000 in prize money so far.
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