Novak Djokovic says he will opt out of future Grand Slams with COVID-19 vaccine mandates
In his first interview since being deported from Australia last month, Novak Djokovic reiterated his stance on not getting vaccinated against COVID-19 and said he would opt out of playing in future majors that would require him getting inoculated.
“Yes, that is the price that I’m willing to pay,” Djokovic told the BCC in a story published early Tuesday morning.
Djokovic, the No. 1 player in the world, was at the center of a global media storm and international legal battle in January after receiving a medical exemption to play in the Australian Open and then having his visa revoked by the Australian government. Ultimately he was forced to leave the country and was unable to defend his title at this year’s first Grand Slam.
The 34-year-old told the BBC he is not against vaccinations but believes in personal choice. He said that is more important than potentially winning his 21st major trophy.
“Because the principles of decision making on my body are more important than any title or anything else,” Djokovic said. “I’m trying to be in tune with my body as much as I possibly can.”
Rafael Nadal won the Australian Open title in Djokovic’s absence, and broke the tie he held with Djokovic and Roger Federer for most major titles by a male player.
In his documentation for a medical exemption, Djokovic had claimed to have had the virus in December but the timeline of infection raised suspicions. He addressed the doubts towards his claims in the interview.
“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. “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 do not like someone thinking I’ve misused something or in my own favor, in order to, you know, get a positive PCR test and eventually go to Australia. “
Djokovic said he was “really sad and disappointed” about the way his time in Melbourne ended. He is next expected to play the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, California next month.
His status for the French Open, this year’s next Grand Slam, which begins May 22, remains unclear. France’s Sports Ministry previously said there would be no exemptions granted with their current vaccine law.
Djokovic is also the defending champion at Wimbledon, which starts in late June. But so far, England has allowed exemptions from various coronavirus regulations for visiting athletes, if they remain at their accommodation when not competing or training. The US Tennis Association, which runs the US Open, has said it will follow government rules on vaccination status.