Novak Djokovic has broken his silence over the Australian Open debacle and said that he was willing to sacrifice titles rather than being forced to take a jab.
In an exclusive interview with BBC, Djokovic said he was not anti-vax but believed in an individual’s right to choose.
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Djokovic was asked if he would sacrifice taking part in competitions such as Wimbledon and the French Open over his stance on the vaccine.
“Yes, that is the price that I’m willing to pay,” he said.
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The Serb had flown down to Australia after receiving a medical exemption to compete at the Australian Open.
But Djokovic’s visa was cancelled and the No 1 player in the world deported on the eve of the tournaments.
Freedom to choose
“I was never against vaccination,” he said, confirming that he’d had vaccines as a child, “but I’ve always supported the freedom to choose what you put in your body.”
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In Djokovic’s absence, Rafael Nadal won the Australian Open and became the first men’s player to hold 21 Grand Slam titles.
Djokovic and Roger Federer are tied at 20 apiece.
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In our interview, Djokovic also addressed speculation about the sequence of events ahead of the Australian Open in January.
“I was really sad and disappointed with the way it all ended for me in Australia,” he said. “It wasn’t easy.”
Some had suggested that it was convenient that Djokovic’s positive Covid case in mid-December had occurred just in time for him to be granted a medical exemption.
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“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 acknowledged.
“But no-one is lucky and convenient of getting Covid. Millions of people have and are still struggling with Covid around the world.
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“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.”