Novak Djokovic and his family refused to explain why the world No 1 repeatedly appeared in public shortly after testing positive for coronavirus.
A press conference held by Djokovic’s brother, mother, father and uncle in Belgrade was abruptly ended when they were asked about his attendance at events in the days following the December 16 positive.
Djokovic was last night still facing the threat of deportation from Australia despite a court overturning the cancellation of his visa over his vaccination status, with the government there considering throwing him out of the country regardless.
While taking to the practice court after being freed and confirming his intention to play the first grand slam of the year “despite all that has happened”, Djokovic maintained his silence about having attended several events – including with large groups of children – after the test, which is central to the visa row.
Under rules in place in Serbia at the time, those to test positive for coronavirus had to quarantine for 14 days – although Telegraph Sport has been told this could have been shortened if a negative result was subsequently produced.
Djokovic has had more than two days to explain his movements since news of his December 16 positive first emerged on Saturday, a revelation that raised questions about why he appeared in public in the subsequent two days and beyond.
Documents submitted to a Melbourne court in support of his fight to avoid being thrown out of Australia also showed Djokovic did not return a negative test until December 22.
Djokovic’s brother, Djordje, confirmed at yesterday’s press conference that the player had tested positive on December 16, saying: “Yes. The whole process was public and all the documents that are public are legal.”
But asked whether Djokovic had been “at an event on the 17th of December” – a question which left the family looking visibly uncomfortable – his brother quickly announced: “Okay, so this press conference is adjourned at the moment.”
The conference ended with the family linking arms and singing a song with patriotic lyrics: “I am coming from Serbia, never leaving it.”
Former doubles champion Patrick McEnroe, who said the judge had made the “correct ruling” in blocking Djokovic’s deportation, posted on Twitter: “Now Novak will have more questions to answer regarding his positive COVID test & subsequent public appearances. The plot just thickens…& thickens!!”
Sponsors stand by Djokovic but experts issue £22m warning over endorsements
By Tom Morgan
Sponsors pledged to stand by Novak Djokovic as experts warned his £22million annual endorsements will only be at risk if he further embraces his status as “the anti-vaxx poster boy”.
Hublot, who are among his lead sponsors, declined to criticise what it said were his “personal decisions” on vaccination. “Hublot will continue its partnership with the world number 1 tennis player,“ the luxury Swiss watch brand told Telegraph Sport. Other sponsors, including the sports brands Head, Lacoste and Asics, have failed to respond to requests for comment since Djokovic was engulfed by one of sport’s biggest pandemic furores.
Marcel Knobil, founder of Superbrands and the Brand Council consultancy, said it was still too early in the saga for sponsors to start seriously considering ditching the World No 1. “I don’t think his bank manager need worry at the moment,” the marketing expert added. “However, his sponsors will definitely be keeping an eye on how things unfold. I doubt his sponsorships are currently under threat. The big concern for various sponsors will be if he becomes perceived as a major anti-vaccination advocate and the anti-vax poster boy.”
Djokovic, who has homes in Serbia, Monte Carlo and the US, endorsements dramatically outweigh his average earnings in winnings each year, according to Forbes estimates. In June last year, he was 46th on Forbes’ list of the 100 highest-paid athletes in the world, with earnings broken down at around eight million US dollars in on-court earnings and $30 million dollars (£22.1m) from endorsements.
He was the world’s fourth-best-paid tennis player last year, behind Roger Federer, Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams. Hublot hinted it did not necessarily approve of Djokovic opposing the vaccine, but said: “Novak Djokovic is his own person. We cannot comment on any of his personal decisions.”
Djokovic signed with Hublot in August last year after parting ways with Seiko 12 months ago. He previously signed a five year term with Lacoste in May 2017 which earns him approximately £6.5million a year. Djokovic has been playing with Head equipment since 2001 and wearing Asics since 2018. He also has deals with French car manufacturers Peugeot and the Ultimate Kronos Group (UKG) and Austrian banking group Raiffeisen Bank.
Djokovic also owns a chain of restaurants called Novak Caf, with locations in Belgrade, New Belgrade, and Kopaonik in his native Serbia. Despite his apparent misgivings around the pandemic, he has donated £830,000 towards the purchase of ventilators and medical equipment to support hospitals and other medical institutions in Serbia. He also reportedly made donations to Bergamo, one of the worst-affected provinces in Italy, as well as Kosovska Mitrovica in Kosovo.