Djokovic will MISS tournaments if he needs a vaccine

Defiant Novak Djokovic says he will REFUSE to play at Wimbledon and French Open if he needs a Covid vaccine to compete – but distances himself from anti-vax movement after Australia visa saga

  • Novak Djokovic has broken his silence on his coronavirus vaccination saga at the Australian Open
  • The World No 1 was deported from the country last month amid a row over his Covid vaccination status
  • Djokovic, 34, now says that he will not compete at future tournaments if it means he has to take the jab 
  • Novak Djokovic today revealed he will refuse to play at future Grand Slams if it means he has to take a Covid vaccine. 

    The Serbian, 34, was deported from Australia last month amid a row over his vaccination status, with the government cancelling his visa twice ahead of the Australian Open after days of legal wrangling.

    Djokovic has won the French Open twice and Wimbledon six times, but is willing to sacrifice his place in those tournaments if a vaccination is required to compete.

    Last month, France’s health minister said that sports stars must be vaccinated or recently recovered from Covid in order to participate in competitions in the country, while Christophe Castaner, head of French president Emmanuel Macron’s LREM ruling party group said the prospect of an unvaccinated Djokovic defending his title was ‘out of the question’. 

    Wimbledon has also provided no guarantee that Djokovic will be able to play at this summer’s Grand Slam in South West London, despite there being no UK government rules on athletes requiring vaccines.  

    Djokovic’s rival Rafael Nadal went on to win the tournament Down Under, taking his Grand Slam tally to 21, one more than the Serbian’s haul of 20. Earlier this month, it was reported that the 34-year-old was considering taking the jab so as to eclipse the Spaniard’s total.

    Now, Djokovic has broken his silence on the visa saga and says he would choose not play at future tournaments – foregoing his chance to be considered, statistically, tennis’ greatest male player – if he has to take the vaccine to compete.

    ‘Yes, that is the price that I’m willing to pay,’ he told the BBC

    Novak Djokovic has broken his silence on his Australian visa saga in a bombshell interview, saying he would rather pull out of future Grand Slams than take a Covid vaccination

    Novak Djokovic has broken his silence on his Australian visa saga in a bombshell interview, saying he would rather pull out of future Grand Slams than take a Covid vaccination

    The World No 1 was last month deported from Australia amid a row over his vaccination status

    The World No 1 was last month deported from Australia amid a row over his vaccination status

    Djokovic (pictured with wife Jelena) was granted a medical exemption but the country's immigration minister cancelled his visa due to concerns over 'civil unrest'

    Djokovic (pictured with wife Jelena) was granted a medical exemption but the country’s immigration minister cancelled his visa due to concerns over ‘civil unrest’

    In full: What did Novak Djokovic say on vaccination

    ‘I understand and support fully the freedom to choose whether you want to get vaccinated or not. I have not spoken about this before and I have not disclosed my medical record and my vaccination status because I had the right to keep that private and discrete.

    ‘But as I see, there are a lot of wrong conclusions and assumptions out there and I think it is important to speak up about that and justify certain things. I was never against vaccination. 

    ‘I understand that globally, everyone is trying to put a big effort to handling this virus and seeing, hopefully, an end to this virus. And vaccination is probably the biggest effort that was made – probably half of the planet was vaccinated and I fully respect that. 

    ‘But I’ve always represented and always supported the freedom to choose what you put in your body. For me, that is essential. It is really the principle of understanding what is right and what is wrong for you. 

    ‘And me as an elite professional athlete, I have always carefully reviewed, assessed everything that comes in from the supplements, food, the water that I drink or sports drinks – anything that comes into my body as a fuel. Based on the information that I got, I decided not to take the vaccine as of today.

    ‘I keep my mind open because we are all trying to find collectively a best possible solution to end Covid. No one really wants to be in this kind of situation we’ve been in collectively for two years. I am part of a very global sport that is played every single week in a different location, so I understand the consequences of my decision. 

    ‘And one of the consequences of my decision was not going to Australia and I was prepared not to go. I understand that not being vaccinated today, I am unable to to travel to most of the tournaments at the moment. That is the price I am willing to pay.

    I say everyone has the right to choose or act however they feel is appropriate for them. I have never said that I am part of that [anti-vaxx] movement. No one in the whole process during the saga has asked me on my stance or my opinion on vaccination, no one. 

    ‘So I could not really express what I feel my stance is, either in the legal process or outside. It is really unfortunate that there has been this misconception and wrong conclusion that has been made around the world that has been based upon something that I completely disagree with.’

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    ‘Because 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.’

    Speaking from his tennis base in Belgrade, Djokovic confirmed that he has not been vaccinated against Covid but distanced himself from the anti-vax movement.

    He laughed as he said he supported a ‘right to choose, to act or say whatever they feel is appropriate to them’.

    The 34-year-old insisted that he is ‘keeping [his] mind open’ to the possibility of being vaccinated in the future ‘because we are all trying to find collectively, a best possible solution to end Covid’.

    ‘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.

    ‘For me, as an elite professional athlete I have always carefully reviewed and assessed everything that comes in, from the supplements, the food, the water that I drink or sports drinks, anything really that comes into my body as a fuel.

    ‘Based on all the information that I got, I decided not to take the vaccine.’

    Djokovic has been included on the tournament entry list for the prestigious Indian Wells tournament in California next month — but will have trouble getting into the United States because foreign air flyers must provide proof of vaccination before boarding flights.

    He also used his BBC interview to address criticism directed towards him regarding the sequence of events leading to his initial visa approval in Australia.

    The Serb’s decision to conduct a previous interview, with French outlet L’Equipe,  shortly after claiming he had tested positive for Covid had resulted in doubts surrounding his medical exemption claims. 

    There are also questions over the timing of Djokovic’s positive test on December 16, with the serial number of his test appearing out of sequence with a sample of tests in Serbia over the same period. 

    ‘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,’ Djokovic said today.

    ‘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.’

    Djokovic denied the suggestion that his tests had been tampered with and stressed that an error in one of his travel documents was unintentional.

    ‘I was really sad and disappointed with the way it all ended for me in Australia,’ he added. ‘It wasn’t easy. 

    ‘The visa declaration error was not deliberately made. It was accepted and confirmed by the Federal Court and the minister himself in the Ministry for Immigration in Australia. 

    Djokovic distanced himself from the anti-vaxx movement but said that he will not compete at Wimbledon or the French Open if it means he has to get the jab

    Djokovic distanced himself from the anti-vaxx movement but said that he will not compete at Wimbledon or the French Open if it means he has to get the jab

    That decision poses a huge threat to Djokovic's prospect of becoming the sport's greatest ever male athlete

    Rafael Nadal currently holds the record for most Grand Slam titles won, with a haul of 21

    That decision poses a huge threat to Djokovic’s prospect of becoming the sport’s greatest ever male athlete. Rafael Nadal currently holds the record for most Grand Slam titles won, with a haul of 21

    The French Open is the next Slam on the calendar but Djokovic insists he will choose to skip the tournament if a jab is required

    The French Open is the next Slam on the calendar but Djokovic insists he will choose to skip the tournament if a jab is required

    FRANCE AND UK COVID RULES FOR UNVACCINATED STARS

    In France, athletes must be vaccinated or have recently recovered from Covid in order to compete in tournaments in the country.

    Christophe Castaner, head of French president Emmanuel Macron’s LREM ruling party group also said the prospect of an unvaccinated Djokovic defending his French Open title was ‘out of the question’.

    Wimbledon has also provided no guarantee that Djokovic will be able to play at this summer’s Grand Slam in South West London, despite there being no UK government rules on athletes requiring vaccines.  

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    ‘So actually, 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 can now been knocked off the No 1 spot in tennis’ world rankings by Daniil Medvedev, who plays in Acapulco this week, while Djokovic takes part in his first tournament of the year in Dubai, where he does not need to be vaccinated to play.

    Sympathy for Djokovic has been in short supply from his fellow tennis players – and this week women’s No 28, Russian Daria Kasatkina, became the latest voice to speak out on how allowing him to play at Grand Slams would be ‘unfair’.

    ‘I will say this: it would be unpleasant for the players if Djokovic was allowed to play [at the Australian Open],’ Kasatkina told Tennis World USA. ‘Because we all made some kind of sacrifice: we accepted the rules of the game in order to play.

    ‘Novak wanted to go his own way. If he was allowed to play with all the set of absurdities that eventually turned out, it would not be fair to the players.’