Novak Djokovic has broken his silence on his Australian visa saga by saying he will not compete in future Grand Slams if it means he will have to get vaccinated against Covid.
The 34-year-old Serbian was deported from Australia last month following a scandal over his vaccination status, as the government canceled his visa ahead of the Australian Open.
Australia’s strict border rules say all arrivals must be vaccinated against Covid unless they are medically exempt, and the world’s No. 1 said he received a medical exemption as he recently recovered from the virus.
However, Australian Immigration Minister Alex Hawk stated that Djokovic’s presence in Melbourne would cause “civil unrest” and subsequently deported him.
Djokovic’s rival Rafael Nadal won the Down Under tournament, bringing his Grand Slam tally to 21, one more than the Serb’s (20). to outshine the Spaniard’s total.
Now Djokovic has broken his silence on the visa saga and says he would prefer not to compete in future tournaments, giving up his chance to be considered the statistically greatest male tennis player if he has to take a vaccine to compete.
“Yes, that’s the price I’m willing to pay,” he told the BBC.
Novak Djokovic has broken his silence on his Australian visa saga in a high-profile interview.
Last month, the world No. 1 was deported from Australia following a scandal over his vaccination status.
Djokovic (pictured with wife Elena) was granted a medical exemption, but the country’s immigration minister canceled his visa over concerns about “civil unrest”.
Djokovic distanced himself from the anti-vaccination movement but said he would not compete in Wimbledon or the French Open if that meant he had to get a jab.
“Because the principles of decision making regarding my body are more important than any title or anything else. I try to be in harmony with my body as much as possible.”
Speaking from his tennis base in Belgrade, Djokovic confirmed that he had not been vaccinated against Covid but had distanced himself from the anti-vaccine movement.
The 34-year-old man insisted that he was “holding [his] mind is open” to the possibility of vaccination in the future “because we are all trying collectively to find the best possible solution to end Covid.”
“I have never been against vaccination. I understand that all over the world everyone is trying to make a big effort to deal with this virus and hopefully end this virus soon.
“For me, as an elite professional athlete, I have always carefully analyzed and evaluated everything that enters the body, whether it is supplements, food, the water I drink or sports drinks, everything that really enters my body as fuel.
“Based on all the information I’ve received, I’ve decided not to get vaccinated.”
Djokovic also responded to criticism regarding the sequence of events leading up to the approval of his original Australian visa.
This decision poses a huge threat to Djokovic’s prospect of becoming the greatest male athlete in the history of the sport.
Rafael Nadal currently holds the record for most Grand Slam titles won, having won 21 titles.
The Serb’s decision to be interviewed by the French publication L’Equipe shortly after testing positive for Covid has raised doubts about his claims to be exempt from medical care.
There are also doubts about the timing of Djokovic’s positive test on December 16, as his test serial number does not match the sequence of tests in Serbia over the same period.
“I understand that there is a lot of criticism, and I understand that people come up with different theories about how lucky I am or how convenient it is,” he said.
“But no one is lucky and convenient to contract Covid. Millions of people have fought and are still fighting Covid around the world. So I take this very seriously, I really don’t like it when someone thinks that I misused something or to my advantage in order to, you know, get a positive PCR test and end up going to Australia “.
Djokovic dismissed the suggestion that his tests were tampered with and stressed that the error in one of his travel documents was unintentional.
“I was very sad and disappointed with how it all ended for me in Australia,” he added. “That was not easy.
The French Open is the next Grand Slam on the calendar, but Djokovic insists he will miss the tournament if a jab is required.
“The error in the visa declaration was not intentional. It was accepted and confirmed by the Federal Court and by the Minister himself at the Australian Department of Immigration.
“In fact, people probably don’t know that I wasn’t deported from Australia on the grounds that I wasn’t vaccinated, or that I broke some rules, or that I made a mistake on my visa declaration. All this was in fact approved and confirmed by the Federal Court of Australia and the Minister of Immigration.
“The reason I was deported from Australia was because the Minister of Immigration used his discretion to cancel my visa based on his suggestion that I might create anti-vaccination sentiment in the country or city, which I completely disagree with.”
Djokovic’s high-profile interview comes after Sportsmail reported that the 34-year-old is facing another visa saga after being named to the roster for next month’s BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells.
While the tournament follows tour protocols that abstain from the mandatory jab, he enters the United States, which remains extremely problematic for him if he continues his no-vaccination stance.
The tournament’s somewhat evasive press release obscured the fact that he participated while highlighting the appearance of others such as Rafael Nadal. This is because getting on a flight to the US without an injection is very difficult.
Exceptions for the unvaccinated are limited to a few categories such as “humanitarian or emergency exception” or those whose presence is in the “national interest”.
Therefore, it remains unclear where he can play after this month’s performance in the Dubai Championship.