Pam Shriver says Novak Djokovic’s continuing refusal to get vaccinated against Covid-19 is “terrible for tennis”.
World No 1 Djokovic did not play at last month’s Australian Open, having been deported from the country in a row over the medical exemption which was meant to allow him to compete despite being unvaccinated.
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Former world No 3 Shriver told the BBC: “I hope that the right trusted person, who is an expert in science and medicine, probably would have to be a Serbian, can sit him down and show him, and walk him through all of the steps that make the science and the medicine trustworthy and safe to put in his body.
“Because it’s terrible for tennis, not good for him – and, really, he does lead by example. The fact that he doesn’t trust it, it does lead a lot of people, in his home country and throughout the world.”
Djokovic did not rule out having the vaccine in future, but also said he hoped vaccination requirements for tournaments would change.
As it stands he is unable to travel to the USA to compete in tournaments such as Indian Wells, the Miami Open and the US Open, and may miss the French Open in May.
“Obviously he is standing really strong to his principles that anything he puts into his body might hurt his body and not make it at an optimum way for one of the greatest athletes this planet has seen over the last 15 years,” added 22-time Grand Slam doubles champion Shriver.
“It was good to hear his rationale in some ways, but in some ways it raises more questions. The biggest question I would have is: will he truly have an open mind to get vaccinated at a later date, if the evidence becomes clear to him that it really is a safe vaccine?”
Djokovic’s decision means that he may have to wait for the chance to win another Grand Slam title.
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He watched on as Rafael Nadal won his 21st major at the Australian Open to move one ahead of Djokovic and Roger Federer in the all-time standings.
“It’s hard to believe in some ways and one of the most difficult things that tennis history could be rewritten because of the pandemic and the No 1 athlete refusing to be vaccinated and making travel to many countries not possible,” said Shriver.
“One of the things Novak makes clear is he says ‘right now’, so later on when the pandemic is lessened and there is a finish line, he will be able to travel more freely.
“If nobody can prove to him it’s safe to put in his body I guess that’s what he is going to wait for and then play the few tournaments he can play and enter as an unvaccinated athlete.”
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