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Don’t doubt Novak Djokovic’s legacy, says Alexander Zverev

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Alexander Zverev defended the world’s combative number one Novak Djokovic on Saturday, saying his legacy will not be tarnished by the visa saga that has rocked the tennis world ahead of the Australian Open.

Djokovic arrived in Melbourne with a medical exemption from Australia’s requirement to vaccinate visitors against COVID-19, but his visa was canceled first on arrival and then again on Friday after winning a lawsuit earlier this week.

His hopes of winning a record 21 Grand Slam title at the Australian Open could be dashed by the outcome of a new lawsuit on Sunday.

Djokovic’s determination to enter the tournament without vaccination infuriated the Australian public and drew criticism from fellow players, but third seed Zverev said he was still a towering figure in the sport.

ALSO READ: Djokovic appeals withdrawn visa moved to higher court

“I don’t know what the perception is around the fans,” he told reporters.

“I know he has still seen one of the greatest players in the sport because his achievements are not taken away. He still won 20 Grand Slams. He still has the most weeks as number one in the world. He still has still the most Masters Series (titles). Still for me, one of the greatest players of all time. Of course this is not fun for everyone, and certainly not for him. So don’t doubt his legacy.”

Should Djokovic be absent from a tournament he has won nine times, it will increase the chances of players like Zverev, who have been knocking on the door at the Grand Slams for years.

Zverev named himself one of the contenders to watch Melbourne Park, along with US Open champion Daniil Medvedev, Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas and sixth-seeded Rafael Nadal, who is level with Djokovic and absent Roger Federer on a record 20 Grand Slam titles.

READ: Djokovic arrives at immigration detention hotel – Reuters witness

“I’ve been practicing with Rafa, who I think is now playing fantastic again,” said Zverev of the Spaniard.

Zverev donned a German-colored T-shirt in a return to last year’s Olympic triumph in Tokyo, where he won gold in singles, the proudest moment of his career.

He said the clothes made him feel good for the Grand Slam.

“I’ve had the biggest win, the biggest tournament in the world that I’ve won in this gear. It brings back incredible memories,” he said.

“I just wanted to have that feeling before the tournament starts here.”

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