Novak Djokovic plans to remain unvaccinated, even if he has to miss more Grand Slams

In a wide-ranging interview with the BBC Novak Djokovic revealed that he believes his right to choose whether or not he takes the vaccine is more important than any of his goals as a tennis player.

Novak Djokovic, 2022 Novak Djokovic le 28 janvier 2022 à Budva © AI / Reuters / Panoramic

Novak Djokovic has given an in-depth interview to Amol Rajan of the BBC, the Serb sitting down to update his stance on vaccination and to elaborate on why he feels, for the moment at least, that remaining unvaccinated is more important than chasing Grand Slam history in 2022.

Djokovic, who missed a chance to win his 21st major title when his refusal to get vaccinated led to his eventual deportation from Australia in January, was asked if he would risk missing out on Roland-Garros and Wimbledon in order to avoid the jab. He replied: “Yes, that is the price that I’m willing to pay.”

Djokovic does not consider himself part of the anti-vax movement, he simply wants his freedom

Djokovic reasserted that he never wanted to be a poster boy for the anti-vax community. The world No 1 says that his biggest issue is retaining autonomy over his own body and what he puts into it.

“I’ve always supported the freedom to choose what you put in your body,” he said,  “For me that is essential. It’s really the principle of understanding what is right or what is wrong for you, and me. As an elite professional athlete, I’ve always carefully reviewed and assessed everything that comes in, from supplements to the water that I drink, sports drinks, anything really that comes into my body as a fuel. Based on the information that I got, I decided not to take the vaccine.”

The Serb says he believes the vaccines are good for humanity as it tries to defeat the coronavirus – but not right for him.

“I was never against vaccination,” Djokovic said. “I understand that totally everyone is trying to put a big effort into handling this virus and seeing, hopefully, an end to this virus, and vaccination is probably the biggest effort that was made, and I fully respect that.”

Still disappointed with the way the Australian “saga” ended

Referring back to his difficult month in Australia in January, Djokovic says that he was most upset that he ended up being deported because of the belief that he would create anti-vax sentiment in Australia, and therefore was a threat to the public safety of the nation.

“So actually, what people probably don’t know is that I was not deported from Australia on the basis that I was not vaccinated, or I broke any rules or that I made an error in my visa declaration. All of that was actually approved and validated by the Federal Court of Australia and the Minister for Immigration.

“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.”

With very fluid situations in France and Great Britain with regard to coronavirus mitigation, there is a chance that restrictions will loosen as the omicron surge abates. Whether vaccinated or not, Djokovic may be able to participate on the Grand Slam stage this year – it’s really up to the host nation, the state of the spread of the virus in the coming months and, of course, politics.

Another potential variable is he fact that Djokovic could change his mind.

“I keep my mind open, because we are all trying to find collectively a best possible solution to end Covid,” Djokovic said. “No one really wants to be in this kind of situation that we’ve been in collectively for two years.

“I understand the consequences of my decision, and one of the consequences of my decision was not going to Australia – I was prepared not to – that’s the price that I’m going to have to pay.”

Novak Djokovic

Djokovic – the principles of decision making on my body are more important than any title

The right to decide what he puts into his body is paramount to playing at the moment, says Djokovic.

The interviewer asked Djokovic the following question:

“Are you prepared to forego the chance to be the greatest player that ever picked up a racquet because you feel so strongly about this jab?”

“Yes, I do,” replied Djokovic. “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.”

On his second Covid diagnosis – ‘I wasn’t lucky’

Djokovic also cleared the air about his positive Covid test result in December.

“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,” he said, before stating clearly that the conspiracy theorists are out of line.

“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.”

The full interview will be broadcasted on Tuesday at 8.30 pm UK time.

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