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Djokovic Says He Is Prepared To Miss Future Tournaments Instead Of Getting Covid Shot—But Denies Being Anti-Vax

Djokovic Says He Is Prepared To Miss Future Tournaments Instead Of Getting Covid Shot—But Denies Being Anti-Vax

Novak Djokovic said he is not against vaccination but is prepared to skip future Grand Slam tournaments instead of taking a Covid-19 shot, in an interview with the BBC on Tuesday where the world’s top ranked male tennis player addressed the controversy around his vaccination status for the first time since he was deported from Australia and missed out on the year’s first grand slam event.

Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic looks on as he attends a meeting with Serbian President in … [+] Belgrade.

AFP via Getty Images

Key Facts

In the interview, Djokovic insisted that he did not want to be linked to the anti-vaxxer movement—noting that he took vaccines as a child—but instead he supported an individual’s right to choose.

Djokovic said as an “elite professional athlete” he has always carefully reviewed and assessed everything that goes into his body—including supplements, food, sports drinks and even water—and based on all the information he received he decided not to take the vaccine.

The Serbian tennis star said he understood that being unvaccinated means he will not be allowed to play in several key tournaments including the Grand Slams, but added that is the “price that I’m willing to pay” and said he was willing to forgo his pursuit for a record number of Grand Slam titles.

The twenty-time Grand Slam winner, however, hopes that the vaccination requirements for key tournaments would change and he “can play for many more years.”

Djokovic added that he was keeping an open mind about the possibility of getting a Covid-19 vaccine in the future.

Djokovic also addressed being deported from Australia in January due to questions over his exemption from getting the shot, which led to his visa being cancelled and prevented him from defending his Australian Open title. Djokovic said he empathized with Australians who have had to deal with lockdowns and may have felt frustrated with his situation, but added that he “always followed the rules.” The world number one tennis player said he was initially prepared to miss the Australian Open but only decided to go ahead after the organizers sent out a circular outlining the possibility of a medical exemption. Djokovic acknowledged the criticism about the “convenient” timing of his infection that initially got him an exemption but said that “no one is lucky” when it comes to getting Covid and he does not like the insinuation that he misused his powers to get a positive PCR test to travel to Australia.

Crucial Quote
“The minister for immigration used his discretionary right 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 told the BBC.

Key Background
Djokovic was forced to leave Australia in January following a nearly two-week saga surrounding the unvaccinated star’s eligibility to remain in the country and compete in the Australian Open. Before the tournament, Djokovic was tied with Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, each of them winning a record 20 grand slams. The list is now led by Nadal who beat Daniil Medvedev in a hard fought final in Melbourne. The next grand slam event—the French Open—is scheduled to take place in Paris in May. Djokovic may also have to give that tournament a miss after the French sports ministry announced last month that no exemptions will be offered to unvaccinated individuals taking part in sporting events like the French Open.

Further Reading
Novak Djokovic: I’m not anti-vax but will sacrifice trophies if told to get jab (BBC News)

After Australia, Here’s Which Grand Slam Tournaments Djokovic Can – And Can’t – Play (Forbes)

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