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EXCLUSIVE: Australian Open tennis stars left in crisis over Novak Djokovic's vaccine exemption turmoil

After a hellish week, the biggest names in the game have been left shocked and embarrassed.

By Woman's Day team
He's the world No. 1, and many would argue the greatest tennis player ever, but it seems Novak Djokovic can't cop a break.
In one of the most sensational starts to the first of the four 2022 grand slam events, no one, least of all the towering Serbian, could've imagined he'd end up in this much hot water – before a single ball was even served!
According to one well-placed insider, the rumblings continue to rock the tennis world, with plenty of speculation as to what really happened in the shambolic lead-up to the biggest event on the Australian sporting calendar.
"It's no secret Novak is one of the more polarising characters in world sport." (Getty)
"It's been a nightmare! It's no secret Novak is one of the more polarising characters in world sport, and has always been very open in his opposition to mandatory vaccination.
"It's been shrouded in secrecy from the get-go, and with so much finger pointing, it's hard to know what to believe," the source reveals to Woman's Day on the eve of the Australian Open.
"If there are more tantrums, tears and dramas, then we stand a real chance of losing the event for good. This can't happen again – no matter whether it's the world No. 1 or the rookie kid ranked 287th."
With everyone weighing in on the scandal that left the controversial tennis star, 34, holed up in detention following a mix-up around a medical exemption, his fiercest opponent, veteran Rafael Nadal, did not hold back when asked about the ongoing saga.
"In some way, I feel sorry for him, but he knew the conditions months ago," the 35-year-old champion said last week in the lead-up to the Aussie tournament.
"Everyone has to do what they feel is good for them, but there are rules, and without the vaccine there can be some troubles."
And Rafael's not alone, with a number of current and former champions throwing their support behind the popular Spaniard.
One of the first to jump on board "Team Rafa" is retired Aussie legend Lleyton Hewitt, 40, who is said to be embarrassed by the ugly turn of events that almost derailed his home grand slam.
"Ever since the day Lleyton beat Novak in the 2006 US Open, there's been a profound, and to be fair, healthy rivalry between the pair.
"Let's not forget, Lleyton, Novak and Rafael, for all their brilliance over the years, have made lots of headlines, and not always for the right reasons!
"Lleyton, Novak and Rafael, for all their brilliance over the years, have made lots of headlines, and not always for the right reasons!" (Getty)
"But this time, Lleyton and Rafael agree that not necessarily adhering to the rules and regulations of a tournament is not the best move.
"Like everyone in the tennis world, players and fans, they want the focus now to be on the game," says the insider.
With Roger Federer, Rafael and Novak all locked on a record 20 men's grand slam titles apiece, and with crowd favourite Roger out injured, it's game on just who will shine at the 2022 Australian Open.
"One thing is certain – Novak is hitting the ground with even more fire in the belly!
"This is a bloke who was released from detention and went straight onto the court for a midnight training session – he's a machine," says the source.
And if the proud dad-of-two does in fact get to step onto Melbourne's hallowed Rod Laver Arena with the eyes of the world watching on, it remains to be seen just how the thousands of fans will respond to the reigning champion.
"We can only hope the moment is not marred by something terribly un-Australian and they boo him," says the insider.
"In the end, everyone just wants to see the world's best play great tennis!"

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