By Ian Ransom
MELBOURNE - Australian Open players are tired of the Novak Djokovic saga overshadowing the year's first Grand Slam and want the spotlight back on the tennis, Australian number one Alex de Minaur said on Saturday.
The leadup has been completely dominated by world number one Djokovic's battle to compete in the tournament in the face of a government trying to deport him after cancelling his visa twice.
"I think first of all, this whole situation has taken a lot of spotlight away from us competitors," the 32nd seed told reporters at Melbourne Park.
"We're here to play the Australian Open. We're here on our own terms ready to compete, hopefully have a very good couple weeks.
"It feels like it's taking away from us competitors who just want to start. We're just eager to go out and compete. The Australian Open is always an incredible event, my home Slam, my favourite tournament.
"To be honest, I'm just ready to put all of this behind me and focus on playing my tennis matches, kind of let my tennis do the talking."
Australia's efforts to deport COVID-19 vaccine sceptic Djokovic have drawn widespread support from the public amid a runaway outbreak of Omicron cases.
De Minaur declined to add his voice to the criticism of the Serb but said Djokovic's decision not to vaccinate was at odds with what normal Australians were required to do.
"Look, Australians have gone through a lot. There's no secret about that," he said.
"They've had it very tough. They've done a lot of work to protect themselves and their borders.
"When you're coming in, as well as every other tennis player, if you wanted to come into the country, you had to be double vaccinated. It was up to him, his choices, his judgment.
"Here we are."
(Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)