World number one Novak Djokovic says he is willing to give up tennis’ GOAT race, and chances at future grand slam titles, over his stance on Covid vaccines.
Speaking with the BBC the 20-time Slam champion said he did not want to be associated with the anti-vax movement, but as it stands he says he will not get vaccinated.
It’s unclear whether Djokovic will play at Roland Garros, Wimbledon or the US Open later this year given potential tournament and national vaccine requirements.
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While absent from the Australian Open, Rafael Nadal finally broke through for his second title at Melbourne Park, taking the lead on 21 Slams ahead of Djokovic and Roger Federer.
“That is the price that I’m willing to pay,” the Serbian said.
Djokovic said he was vaccinated as a child, but that “I’ve always supported the freedom to choose what you put in your body.
“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.
“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.”
More than 10 billion doses of different Covid vaccines have been given out.
“It is hard to know what more Novak Djokovic needs or wants to know (about vaccines),” the BBC’s medical editor Fergus Walsh said.
Djokovic also rejected suggestions his second positive Covid test, which occurred in late December just before he flew to Australia, was falsified. There is confusion over the timing of codes on the official PCR tests he submitted upon entry.
“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 don’t 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.”
He added: “Absolutely, the visa declaration error was not deliberately made.”
Djokovic was eventually deported before the Australian Open by immigration minister Alex Hawke on the grounds he could incite civil unrest and encourage anti-vaccine sentiment.
In Australia 94.1 per cent of people aged 16 and over have received two doses of a Covid vaccine while 50.72 per cent of those 18 and over have received a third dose.