Serbian tennis superstar Novak Djokovic has broken his silence in an interview with the BBC and revealed he will continue to miss tennis tournaments, including majors, which require players to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
The 20-time Grand Slam winner was sensationally kicked out of Australia in January, just days before the Australian Open. Djokovic claimed he had a medical exemption to play in the tournament, however his argument fell on deaf ears and his visa was cancelled by Immigration Minister Alex Hawke.
Speaking to the BBC, Djokovic claimed he ‘was never against vaccination’ and he was never connected with the anti-vax movement.
“I was never against vaccination. I understand globally, everyone is trying to put a big effort into handling this virus and seeing an end soon hopefully to this virus,” he said.
Asked if he is prepared to miss tournaments, including Grand Slams, due to his vaccination status, Djokovic replied ‘that is the price I’m willing to pay’.
Djokovic’s great rival Rafael Nadal went on to win the Australian Open in January and in the process, he claimed his 21st major title. Nadal’s victory took him to the top of the leader board as he overtook Djokovic and Roger Federer who have both won 20 Grand Slam titles.
With Nadal expected to be a heavy favourite for this year’s French Open, plus a young group of tennis stars on the rise including Daniil Medvedev, Alexander Zverev, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Matteo Berrettini, it remains to be seen how many more Grand Slam titles Djokovic can win.
Many people have questioned what effect Djokovic’s refusal to be vaccinated will have on his legacy and some have doubted whether he can ever be the GOAT.
During Djokovic’s controversial time in Australia, he was interviewed by Australian Border Force officials over his vaccination status and medical exemption to play in the Australian Open in Melbourne.
However, according to Djokovic, nobody asked him about his vaccination status and during the interview with the BBC, he made some bizarre comments regarding the situation.
“No one in that entire process of the Australian saga has asked me on my stance or my opinion on vaccination. No one. So I could not really express what I feel and where my stance is, neither in the legal process, neither outside,” Djokovic claimed.
Djokovic was detained at the Park Hotel in Carlton, a situation he said, ‘definitely wasn’t pleasant’.
“I don’t want to be sat here and complaining about conditions in that detention centre because I stayed seven days.”
The comments drew very little sympathy from the Australian public who thought Djokovic lived a privileged life and had no reason to complain.
Football analyst and human rights advocate Craig Foster said the drama brought the situation of the 33 refugees, who have been detained at the same location for nine years, into the media spotlight.
“It’s vitally important because for a short period, the number one tennis player in the world was caught in the system that mistreats so many innocent people, kills them in fact and if nothing else, that alone shows what we’ve allowed ourselves to become,” Foster wrote in a statement.
Djokovic’s next scheduled tournament is in the US at Indian Wells. The event is only open to vaccinated players so it remains to be seen if he will participate.