It was only a few short weeks ago that the tennis star said he would get vaccinated after watching rival Rafael Nadal win the Australian Open, but now the Serbian superstar seems to have dramatically changed his mind.
Since Novak Djokovic was controversially denied the opportunity to play at the Australian Open last month, the strict vegan has become a poster-boy for vaccine sceptics around the world.
After initially allowing unvaccinated Djokovic entry into the country with a medical exemption, the Australian court later overturned the decision, admitting authorities had provided his team with inaccurate information about the grounds for medical exemptions.
The court concluded that having Covid in the past six months is not considered a valid exemption in Australia as it is in some other countries, and allowing an exemption to the rules for the tennis star could undermine the country’s vaccination effort.
According to the Australian Department of Health: “For travel into and out of Australia, travelers must provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination status”. Exemptions are granted for children aged 11 and under or individuals who “can’t get any of the approved COVID-19 vaccines for medical reasons”.
A mass international debate ensued around the furor, with many insisting that Djokovic, who is currently ranked as the ATP world number one, was treated unfairly and harshly, while others praised Australia for applying its strict border laws equally despite his celebrity status.
Some would argue rather hypocritically, considering his lifelong campaign to allow Britain to determine its own border laws, Brexit Party politician Nigel Farage even travelled to Serbia to meet and support Djokovic’s disgruntled family.
Bizarrely, during press conferences, Novak’s devoted father, Srdjan even compared his son’s treatment to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ:
“[Novak] met all the required conditions for the entry and participation at the tournament that he would have certainly won.
“Jesus was crucified and endured many things but is still alive among us. Novak is also crucified… the best sportsman and man in the world. He will endure.”
Great tennis player he may be, but it’s very unlikely Djokovic, 34, will endure as world number one for very long if he’s unable to rack up the big points available at Grand Slam tournaments, which are worth 2000 ATP points to the winner.
The more points a player amounts, the higher they rank on the ATP world ranking list.
The French Open, another Grand Slam which starts in May, has already confirmed that it will not allow Djokovic to play unless he’s vaccinated.
Speaking to the BBC earlier today, Novak insisted he would be prepared to miss tournaments like the French Open and Wimbledon if a Covid vaccination was mandatory to play. The tennis star maintained that he was not “anti-vax” but instead pro freedom to choose, stating that choice and freedom was “more important than any title, or anything else.”
The world number one added that he knows his choice will mean he will be “unable to travel to most of the tournaments” as a result, missing out on vital points which rival players like Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer will gobble up, but he defiantly maintained: “That is a price I’m willing to pay”.