Novak Djokovic feels so strongly about vaccinations that he would be willing to give up the chance to become the greatest tennis player ever rather than be forced to get a Covid jab.
In his first interview since being deported from Australia, Djokovic was asked if he would sacrifice competing at Wimbledon and the French Open because of his opinion on vaccines.
“Yes, that is the price that I’m willing to pay,” he said.
The Serbian tennis star told the BBC that he supported an individual’s right to choose, and should not be associated with the anti-vaccination movement.
“I was never against vaccination, but I’ve always supported the freedom to choose what you put in your body,” he said.
Djokovic was told to fly out of Melbourne in January as the president of Serbia said the player had been treated like a “mass murderer” over his refusal to be vaccinated.
A court upheld a decision by Australia’s immigration minister to cancel his visa for a second time.
It was the culmination of a 10-day saga that soured relations between Australia and Serbia and hit Djokovic’s hopes of winning a record 21st Grand Slam title just a day before he was due to step on court for the Australian Open.
The BBC reported that Djokovic hoped vaccination requirements in tournaments would change, so that he could play for many more years: “He also confirmed he was willing to forego the chance to become statistically the greatest tennis player of all time because he felt so strongly.”
Djokovic said it was “because the principles of decision making on my body are more important than any title or anything else”.
He was trying to be in tune with his body as much as he possibly could.
“He said he was ‘keeping [his] mind open’ about the possibility of being vaccinated in the future, ‘because we are all trying to find collectively, a best possible solution to end Covid’,” the BBC reported.
“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.”