Rafael Nadal suffered breathing problems during his Indian Wells final on Sunday as he was beaten by American Taylor Fritz. And one Australian politician has caused a stir by taking to social media in the hope of finding out what Novak Djokovic might make of the incident.
Nadal has been in instrumental form this year and won the Australian Open after he stunned Daniil Medvedev by clawing back a two-set deficit to become the most successful men’s player in the history of tennis. His triumph Down Under meant Nadal moved ahead of Djokovic and Roger Federer at the top of the all-time Grand Slam leaderboard with 21 majors to his name.
The 35-year-old also tasted success at the Melbourne Summer Set at the start of the year and the Mexican Open last month and was widely expected to win in California. But Fritz took the first set 6-3 before closing the match out in a second-set tiebreak.
Following the match, Nadal revealed he had been struggling. “When I’m breathing, when I’m moving, it’s like a needle all the time inside,” the superstar said. “I get dizzy a little bit because it’s painful. It’s a kind of pain that limits me a lot. It’s not only about pain, I don’t feel very well because it affects my breathing.”
The leader of Australia’s United Australia Party Craig Kelly then took to Twitter to suggest that Djokovic might have some strong opinions about Nadal’s issues. “Well, well,” Kelly wrote before quoting Nadal. “I wonder what Djokovic would say.” Nadal has since been diagnosed with a rib stress fracture and faces 4-6 weeks out.
The MP didn’t elaborate any further about his controversial tweet - but he could be inferring that Djokovic might link Nadal’s breathing difficulties to the fact the Spaniard has been vaccinated against COVID-19. Djokovic, who has never explicitly supported anti-vaccination activists, was involved in one of tennis’ biggest controversies ever in January when he was banned from playing in the Australian Open and deported from Melbourne due to the fact he isn’t vaccinated against the virus.
According to the Independent, Djokovic has a long-held belief in alternative medicine and is sceptical about conventional science. He has even apparently been reluctant to undergo surgery in the past due to his beliefs.
And he clearly wants to exercise his right not to get vaccinated, admitting earlier this year he would forgo Grand Slams if jabs became mandatory to compete. But following the Australian Open debacle, the Serbian insisted he “was never against vaccination,” and has “always supported the freedom to choose what you put in your body.” Due to his vaccination status, he has only been able to play at the Duty Free Dubai Tennis Championships this year but is set to compete at the Masters 1000 in Monte Carlo next month.