In his first interview since being deported from Australia last month, Novak Djokovic reiterated his stance on not getting a COVID-19 shot and said he would refuse to play at any future majors that will would require vaccination.
“Yes, that’s the price I’m willing to pay,” Djokovic told BCC in an article published early Tuesday morning.
Djokovic, the world No. 1 player, was at the center of a global media storm and international legal battle in January after receiving a medical exemption to play at the Australian Open and then having his visa revoked by the Australian government. Eventually, he was forced to leave the country and couldn’t defend his title at the first Grand Slam of the year.
The 34-year-old told the BBC he was not against vaccinations but believed in personal choice. He said it was more important than potentially winning his 21st major trophy.
“Because the principles of decision-making on my body are more important than any title or anything else,” Djokovic said. “I try to be in tune with my body as much as possible.”
Rafael Nadal won the Australian Open title in Djokovic’s absence and broke the tie he held with Djokovic and Roger Federer for most major titles by a male player.
In his documentation for a medical exemption, Djokovic had claimed to have had the virus in December, but the timeline of the infection raised suspicion. He addressed the doubts regarding his claims in the interview.
“I understand there’s a lot of criticism, and I understand people coming out with different theories about how lucky I was or how convenient it is,” Djokovic said. “But no one has the chance and the opportunity to catch COVID. Millions of people have and are still struggling with COVID around the world. I take this very seriously, I really don’t like anyone ‘one thinks I abused something or my favor, in order to, you know, get a positive PCR test and possibly go to Australia.’
Djokovic said he was “really sad and disappointed” at the end of his time in Melbourne. He is then expected to play the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, California next month.
His status for Roland-Garros, the next Grand Slam of the year, which begins on May 22, remains uncertain. The French sports ministry has previously said no exemptions will be granted with its current vaccine law.
Djokovic is also the defending champion at Wimbledon, which starts at the end of June. But so far England has allowed exemptions from various coronavirus regulations for visiting athletes, if they stay in their accommodation when not competing or training. The US Tennis Association, which administers the US Open, said it would follow government rules regarding vaccination status.