Novak Djokovic admits he is willing to miss out on future tournaments including the French Open and Wimbledon over his stance on Covid vaccines.
The world No 1. was deported from Australia last month and missed the Australian Open after seeing his visa cancelled.
The Serbian revealed he was not vaccinated against Covid-19 during the saga, but in his first interview since leaving Australia the 34-year-old said he should not be associated with the anti-vax movement – but rather someone who supports the “freedom to choose”.
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"I was never against vaccination,” he told the BBC. “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.
“Vaccination is probably the biggest effort. I fully respect that. But I’ve always supported the freedom to choose what you put into your body. For me that is the essential, it’s really the principle of understanding what is right and what is wrong for you.
“Me as an elite professional athlete, I’ve always carefully reviewed, assessed everything that comes in from supplements, food, water, anything that comes into my body as a fuel. Based on all the information that I got I decided against the vaccine.”
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He added: “I understand the consequences of my decision. One of the consequences of my decision was not going to Australia, I was prepared not to go.
“I understand not being vaccinated today, I am unable to travel to most tournaments. That is the price I am willing to pay.”
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Asked if he was prepared to forego the chance to win the most grand slam titles because of his stance, he added: “Yes.”
He added he was willing to miss the French Open and Wimbledon this year – and he was then asked by reporter Amol Rajan, why?
“Because the principles of decision making of my body are more important than any title or anything else. I am trying to be in tune with my body as much as I possibly can,” Djokovic replied.
“Everyone has the right to choose, to act or say whatever they feel is appropriate. I’ve never said I am part of that movement. No one in the whole process, during the Australian saga, has asked me of my stance or my opinion on vaccination. No one. So I could not really express what I feel and where my stance is.
“It’s really unfortunate there has been this misconception, the wrong conclusion that has been made around the world based upon something I completely disagree with.”
Djokovic’s participation at the French Open is in doubt and will depend on the nation’s Covid vaccine rules when the grand slam takes place from May 22 to June 5.
In the more immediate future, he has been placed on the Indian Wells entry list, although it was made clear of the event’s website that players are required to be fully vaccinated – in line with the United States’ regulations for non-US arrivals.
Djokovic is, however, set to return to action at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships this month, with the United Arab Emirates allowing the 20-time grand slam winner to compete.
Meanwhile, Wimbledon will likely follow UK government guidelines. As of February 11, individuals who are not recognised as fully vaccinated only need to take a pre-departure test and a PCR test on or before day 2 upon their arrival in the UK.
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