Novak Djokovic says he was not against vaccination but would skip Grand Slam tournaments if he was forced to take the jab against Covid-19.
Djokovic, who is unvaccinated, was deported from Australia ahead of the first Grand Slam of the year after 11 days following two visa cancellations, two court challenges and five nights at an immigration detention hotel.
“Yes, that is the price that I’m willing to pay.”
“I was never against vaccination,” he told the BBC, “but I’ve always supported the freedom to choose what you put in your body.”
Despite watching his rival, Rafael Nadal, winning a record 21st Grand Slam title in Melbourne last month, the world No 1 says he will not defend his Wimbledon or French Open titles if the tournaments require mandatory vaccination for competitors.
“Yes, that is the price that I’m willing to pay,” Djokovic said when asked if he would sacrifice participating in the competitions.
“I say that everybody has the right to choose or act or say or feel whatever is appropriate for them.”
He went on to explain: “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.”
Djokovic also distanced himself from the anti-vaccination movement, despite being deported from Melbourne ahead of the Australian Open last month amid concerns about his vaccine status.
He said: “I have never said I’m part of that movement.
“It’s really unfortunate that there has been this kind of misconception and wrong conclusion based upon something that I completely disagree with,” he added.
He told the broadcaster he was “keeping [his] mind open” to the possibility of getting vaccinated in the future “because we are all trying to find collectively, a best possible solution to end Covid.”
“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.”
The Serbian is set to return to action at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, which begin on February 21.
Entrants to Dubai do not need to be vaccinated against Covid-19 and it is a tournament Djokovic has won five times. – Sky Sports