Who’s right in the vaccine debate? Rafa or Novak?

In episode 4 of Tennis Majors’ exclusive show Match Points, our guests discuss the hot topic of the day, whether Rafael Nadal was right to call out Novak Djokovic for his anti-vaccine views.

May 27, 2020

For episode 4 of Match Points, our three guests are former Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli, the ATP world number 225 Noah Rubin (founder of Behind the Racquet) and the American tennis journalist Ben Rothenberg. 

Novak Djokovic caused a few waves recently when he cast doubt on whether he would take a vaccine if it was a pre-requisite for the ATP Tour to resume in the wake of the coronavirus, casting doubt on the voracity of vaccines and suggesting he did not believe they worked. Rafa Nadal, when asked for his view, said Djokovic (like every player) should take it, leaving host Josh Cohen to asks our three guests the question: “Was Nadal right to call out Djokovic?”

“At least Novak saying now (that) he’s anti-vaccine, we have time to take action”

Rothenberg had little hesitation, drawing attention to some of the discussions Djokovic has been having on social media, including one with controversial figures who were espousing even more controversial anti-vaccine views.

“I believe Rafa was asked a pretty direct question…and he gave a pretty frank reply, so I don’t really blame Rafa in this situation at all. It’s a pretty straightforward question for pretty much everybody,” he said. “The sort of scepticism that Novak is pushing…like bringing on one particular fake medical expert, talking crazy things now, like how you can make polluted water pure with your mind and positive thinking…those sort of things are nuts at any time and especially dangerous now,” he said.

Rothenberg said Djokovic should be “more aware” of the responsibility that being a famous personality brings, but Bartoli said Djokovic may actually have done tennis a favour by letting everyone know his feelings now rather than later.

“At least Novak saying now (that) he’s anti-vaccine, we have time to take action, either to present him proper medical studies or some facts he will believe,” she said. “Rather than not saying anything, then the whole Tour starts again, then he says no, I don’t want to have the vaccine and we have this to deal with when the whole tennis circus is starting again.”

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