Novak Djokovic 'willing' to sacrifice trophies rather than take Covid vaccine

World No 1 said he should not be associated with the anti-vax movement, but supported an individual's right to choose

Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

Novak Djokovic says he is willing to sacrifice the chance to win more titles rather than be forced to get a Covid vaccine.

"Yes, that is the price that I'm willing to pay," he said in an interview with the BBC.

Djokovic, 34, said he should not be associated with the anti-vax movement, but supported an individual's right to choose.

He said: “I have never said I’m part of that movement.

“It’s really unfortunate that there has been this kind of misconception and wrong conclusion based upon something that I completely disagree with,” he added.

The 20-time Grand Slam winner, who is unvaccinated, was deported from Australia last month after the government cancelled his visa in a row over his vaccine status.

The world No 1 is set to make his tennis return at next week's ATP Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.

The Serb was denied the chance to defend his Australian Open title last month after losing his appeal against deportation, allowing great rival Rafael Nadal to become the first man to clinch 21 major titles.

Djokovic arrived in Melbourne in January for the first Grand Slam of the year claiming he had obtained a medical exemption to enter the country without being vaccinated as he had recently recovered from Covid-19.

But Australian border officials said he did not meet requirements to be exempted from strict vaccination rules, his visa was cancelled and a protracted legal appeal failed.

Djokovic is also the reigning French Open and Wimbledon champion, but his vaccination stance means his chances of defending those titles are also in doubt.

He said he would forego the tournaments “because 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,” he added.

Djokovic said he was "sad" with how events played out in Australia, where he spent days in detention at a notorious immigration hotel.

"I was really sad and disappointed with the way it all ended for me in Australia," he said. "It wasn't easy.

"The reason why I was deported from Australia was because the minister for immigration used his discretion 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 deported from Australia

Djokovic, who tested positive for Covid in Belgrade on December 16, hit back at suggestions the timing of his positive test ahead of the Australian Open was convenient for him.

“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 favour, in order to, you know, get a positive PCR test and eventually go to Australia."

Djokovic's 20 Grand Slams

Djokovic said he was “keeping his mind open” to the possibility of getting vaccinated in the future “because we are all trying to find collectively, a best possible solution to end Covid”.

“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.”

Djokovic is set to return to action at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, which begin on February 21.

Entrants to Dubai do not need to be vaccinated against Covid-19 and it is a tournament Djokovic has won five times.

Tournament director Salah Tahla told The National he has "no concerns" over the player's vaccine status.

Djokovic transited through Dubai airport on his way back to Belgrade following his deportation from Australia last month.

Djokovic wins 2020 Dubai Championships

Updated: February 15, 2022, 9:35 AM