'Djokovic saga a distraction for everyone' – Henman

'Djokovic saga a distraction for everyone' – Henman

Tim Henman believes the Novak Djokovic visa saga has been a distraction for everyone and says the events that the whole episode ‘cannot be repeated’.

Djokovic has had his visa cancelled a second time and has been detained ahead of a federal court hearing on Sunday.

Australian immigration minister Alex Hawke says allowing unvaccinated Djokovic to stay risks ‘civil unrest’ after Australians faced some of the world’s harshest lockdowns. Serbian president Aleksandar Vucic has called the treatment of Djokovic a ‘witch hunt’,

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But former British number one and Eurosport pundit Henman believes events have reflected poorly on all parties.

“When you look at the events of the last week, I don’t think it reflects well on anyone,” he said.

It doesn’t reflect well on Tennis Australia, the state of Victoria, or the Australian government, or Djokovic himself. Going into a Grand Slam, one of the biggest tournaments in tennis, you want the talk to be about the tennis and the players, not about vaccines and visas.”

The news cycle has been dominated by the Djokovic story with the tournament itself – starting on Monday – taking a backseat.

And while Henman believes Djokovic’s preparation has obviously been hindered should he play, everyone else has also suffered from the distraction.

“I think it’s been fair to say it’s been a distraction for everyone,” he added. “I think from Novak’s point of view, if he was able to play, I think it makes him vulnerable in the first couple of rounds. If he can fight and find his way through rounds one, two and three, he’s probably got an opportunity to play himself into some kind of form but it’s all speculation and we’ll just have to wait and see what actually happens.

“He has certainly missed plenty of practice time in Melbourne. Early on in the season you really need to get those hard yards under your belt. It’s been far from ideal. We’ll just have to wait and see whether he actually does make it out onto the court or not.”

Djokovic’s reputation has certainly been damaged by events. Tennis stars such as Stefanos Tsitsipas have criticised the Serb, while others have questioned why they have had to follow rules that the world number one has not.

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After almost a year of secrecy, it is now known that Djokovic has not been vaccinated, throwing doubts over his attendance at other events around the world given the varying entry requirements of different nations.

But most important, says Henman, is that events in Australia do not happen again.

He said: “There are different rules and different guidelines in different countries so I think it’s important that people are clear to understand what they are exactly so we don’t have any grey areas.

This episode in Australia cannot be repeated.”

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