Tennis great John McEnroe says he is unsure how Novak Djokovic will cope not just with his deportation from Australia - but also with how fans around the world will react to him going forward.
The world No. 1's stance on coronavirus vaccination eventually caught up with him just days before he was due to start the defence of his Grand Slam title in Melbourne, when the Australian immigration minister ordered him to return to Serbia. McEnroe says that will have hit him hard, ahead of facing one of his most challenging comebacks.
There are now questions about what will happen to Djokovic going forward, if he decides against being jabbed. France has rules around having Covid passes for places like sports venues, and has hinted there will not be any exemptions and although he can technically enter England and quarantine for 10 days, Wimbledon has yet to confirm its own rules around vaccines.
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"There’s no question this is going to hit him hard," McEnroe told Eurosport in The Cube.
"Now there’s uncertainty about the French Open, he’ll need to be vaccinated to play there, and what about Wimbledon? He doesn’t care about these other tournaments, so this is really, really unfortunate for a guy who had worked so hard to be loved.
"It’s tough to be loved and I know about times when people are against you, but deep down we want to be loved.
"When he lost to [Daniil] Medvedev at the [US] Open and he was going for the [calendar] Grand Slam, he said the biggest thing was that he appreciated the crowd there. Australia’s the place where they love him the most and he didn’t even play, so this become ludicrous. I don’t know what’s going to happen next."
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McEnroe says he had not seen many players who have the same drive and ability to bounce back as Djokovic, but worries about the toll of an episode which became top of the western world's news agenda will have on him.
"He is as tough as they come ever on a tennis court mentally, remember a couple of years ago when he fell off the map, he’d won four [Slams] in a row and the next year and a half or so he couldn’t beat anyone. All of a sudden he came back and he was better than ever," he said.
"He has made it somewhat more difficult for himself by not getting vaccinated. That’s complicated things for trying to defend titles that he won.
"I don’t know if he thought he could go down to Australia and compete, I’m still trying to figure out why he would meet with a journalist if in fact he had Covid and not tell the journalist, I find that hard to believe."
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