It’s been barely a week since it was revealed that Novak Djokovic had been named in the vaccinated-only Indian Wells Masters entry list. Now the World No 1, in an interview with the BBC, has decided that he is willing to forgo participation in tournaments that will force him to take the Covid-19 vaccination.
The 34-year-old has been vocal about his hesitation to be inoculated, and was even recently deported from Australia after the immigration minister deemed his presence in the country – despite holding a medical exemption – would instigate anti-vax sentiment.
Furthermore, new government rules in France will require him to take the jab if he wishes to defend his French Open crown in May this year.
Djokovic however, in the interview, claimed he is happy to skip the events rather than take the vaccine.
“Yes, that is the price that I’m willing to pay,” he said.
“I was never against vaccination, but I’ve always supported the freedom to choose what you put in your body,” he said, adding that he has been vaccinated against various diseases as a child.
“I was never against vaccination. I understand that globally, everyone is trying to put a big effort into handling this virus and seeing, hopefully, an end soon to this virus.
“But the principles of decision making on my body are more important than any title or anything else. I’m trying to be in tune with my body as much as I possibly can.”
Djokovic is well known for following a gluten-free diet and has worked on developing certain sleeping patterns that help him recover.
However, he has become an infamous figure in his anti-vax approach.
Djokovic had been granted medical exemption to enter Australia on the basis of a positive Covid-19 report in mid-December. However, there was criticism in terms of the convenient timing at which he contracted the virus.
“I understand that there is a lot of criticism, and I understand that people come out with different theories on how lucky I was or how convenient it is,” he said, about the second time he tested positive – the first in June 2020.
“But no-one is lucky and convenient of getting Covid. Millions of people have and are still struggling with Covid around the world. So I take this very seriously, I really don’t like someone thinking I’ve misused something or in my own favour, in order to, you know, get a positive PCR test and eventually go to Australia.
“I was really sad and disappointed with the way it all ended for me in Australia. It wasn’t easy.”
He had been detained for several days before being freed after winning a court case.
However, Australia’s Immigration Minister Alex Hawke, who could still deport the player, opted to exercise that power.
“What people probably don’t know is that I was not deported from Australia on the basis that I was not vaccinated, or I broke any rules or that I made an error in my visa declaration. All of that was actually approved and validated by the Federal Court of Australia and the Minister for Immigration.
“The reason why I was deported from Australia was because the Minister for Immigration used his discretion to cancel my visa based on his perception that I might create some anti-vax sentiment in the country or in the city, which I completely disagree with.”
Djokovic had equalled Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal’s record for 20 Grand Slam singles titles at Wimbledon last year.
However, in his absence, Nadal won his second Australian Open crown to set the new record at 21.