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Rafael Nadal welcomes the decision to allow Novak Djokovic to play at Australian Open

Novak Djokovic

Bengaluru, November 18: Rafael Nadal, who saved some honour beating Casper Ruud 7-5, 7-5 to bowed out of the ATP Finals in Turin at the pool stage has expressed his happiness over the fact that Novak Djokovic will be allowed to compete at Australian Open 2023.

After the news came that Djokovic's ban from entering Australia was overturned, the Serb has been cleared to play in the season's first Grand Slam at Melbourne.

Djokovic was at the centre of controversy in January 2022, following his attempts to play in this year's tournament in Melbourne despite being unvaccinated against COVID-19, and the 21-time Grand Slam winner was eventually deported after having his visa cancelled on public health grounds.

However, Djokovic recently confirmed he will be free to play in the 2023 Australian Open after his three-year ban from entering the country was overturned.

This follows, Australia's new Immigration Minister Andrew Giles's statement that with a significant easing in pandemic restrictions, the nine-time champion was now welcome to return.

Nadal and Djokovic have dominated tennis along with the now-retired Roger Federer for much of the last two decades, and the Spaniard was pleased to hear of his rival's availability to compete.

"I always said the same; tennis is better when the best players are on the court," he said.

"At the end we don't have to create many stories. Even if it was a big mess what happened last year in Australia, it wasn't good for our sport.

"That was the past. Roger is not playing any more. I missed a lot of Grand Slams with injuries. Last year, Novak was not able to play there.

Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal

"That's the past. What's next is Novak will be able to play again. That's the best news possible, especially knowing that now the virus is more under control it seems around the world. So why not? Happy for him. Happy for the tournament. Happy for the fans. That's it."

At Turin, Nadal, the top seed in the event in the absence of injured world No.1 Carlos Alcaraz, had opened by losing his first two matches in the Green Group. He was already eliminated when he faced Ruud, who won his first two matches to book a semi-final spot.

"I've been practising well," said Nadal, who was struggled with injury since scratching from the Wimbledon semifinal in July.

"Just probably not enough matches to be at the level that I needed to be. Not enough confidence, probably, after six tough months. That's how it is. I accept that the season didn't end the way that I wanted. At least I finished with a positive victory."

Nadal, who sits second in the rankings, said he was happy with a season in which he won the first two Grand Slam titles -- in Australia and at Roland Garros.

"I can't ask for more," said Nadal. "2022 has had a tough six months, two Grand Slams, and finishing the year in a high spot in the rankings.

"At my age, to be able to achieve and be competitive means a lot for me."

Nadal already has the 2023 season, which begins in January, in his sights.

"For 2023, just let's try to have the right preparation, work the proper way and start the season with the right energy, the right attitude, to reach the level that I need to be competitive from the beginning. Let's try it, I am excited about it."

(With inputs from Agencies)

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Story first published: Friday, November 18, 2022, 9:31 [IST]
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