Novak Djokovic has already fired message to Rafael Nadal as 21st Grand Slam nears

Djokovic ‘cleared out of the way’ for Nadal says Webster

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Novak Djokovic has kept a low profile ever since he was prevented from playing this year’s Australian Open. And with the Serb missing from the action Down Under, Rafael Nadal could be about to take full advantage. After his victory over Denis Shapovalov on Tuesday morning, the Serb is just two matches away from etching his name into the history books.

Nadal went into his match with Shapovalov having dropped just a single set at the Australian Open so far.

Yet the Spaniard was pushed all the way by his Canadian opponent on a dramatic night of action at the Rod Laver Arena.

Nadal won the first two sets but, with the 35-year-old struggling with stomach issues and the Australian heat, was then pegged back.

In the end, however, the former world No 1 had enough to prevail and book his place in the last four of the competition.

Now, two more victories will see Nadal move out in front of both Djokovic and Roger Federer on 21 Grand Slam titles.

For Djokovic, he can be forgiven for watching on at home frustrated.

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It would be he playing Nadal in the last four had he been allowed to play and come through the tournament unscathed to this point.

Yet Djokovic has previously insisted he won’t chase anybody and only focuses on his own game, regardless of how many Grand Slams his opponents have won.

“I’m not chasing anybody,” he said at Wimbledon last year.

“I’m making my own path and my own journey, my own history.

“I’m privileged to be part of history of this sport that I love.

“I know about a lot of stats. I don’t know about all of them.

“But they do motivate me even more to play my best tennis at the events that count the most in our sport.”

Djokovic, judging by those comments, won’t be too disappointed if Nadal reigns supreme.

Yet fans can be sure the Serb will return with added motivation following the debacle in Australia this month.

Speaking at the time of his deportation, Djokovic admitted he was ‘extremely disappointed’ with the decision to kick him out.

“I’d like to make a brief statement to address the outcomes of today’s Court hearing,” he said.

“I will now be taking some time to rest and to recuperate, before making any further comments beyond this.

“I am extremely disappointed with the Court ruling to dismiss my application for judicial review of the Minister’s decision to cancel my visa, which means I cannot stay in Australia and participate in the Australian Open.

“I respect the Court’s ruling and I will cooperate with the relevant authorities in relation to my departure from the country.

“I am uncomfortable that the focus of the past weeks has been on me and I hope that we can all now focus on the game and tournament I love.

“I would like to wish the players, tournament officials, staff, volunteers and fans all the best for the tournament.

“Finally, I would like to thank my family, friends, team, supporters, fans and my fellow Serbians for your continued support. You have all been a great source of strength to me.”

Boris Becker, meanwhile, recently expressed a belief Nadal would be the biggest winner from the Djokovic chaos.

“It is actually Nadal, through to the quarter-finals, who might be the beneficiary of all this,” he said.

“After all the bad publicity which surrounded the build-up and the start of the tournament, maybe the Spaniard and Ash Barty will give it a much happier ending.

“Nadal claiming another Grand Slam title and Barty becoming a long-awaited champion from the host nation, what a finish that would be next weekend — and it might happen.

“Who would have thought a month ago that the Spaniard might emerge from this ahead of Djokovic and Roger Federer on 21 Grand Slam titles with the French Open to come?”

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