Novak Djokovic's wife came out fighting in defence of her husband after he was branded as an ‘anti-vax posterboy’ in the aftermath of winning his seventh Wimbledon title on Sunday.
Djokovic celebrated with wife Jelena and his family following a four-set victory over Nick Kyrgios on Centre Court, in what is set to be the Serb’s final Grand Slam appearance this year.
The 35-year-old will be unable to compete at the US Open next month, as his refusal to take the coronavirus means he will be refused entry to the United States under current requirements.
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This was highlighted by journalist Ben Rothenberg, who came up with the term of "anti-vax posterboy". This angered Jelena, and the pair got involved in a heated exchange on Twitter that was reported by the Mirror.
He said on Twitter: “Unless there is a swift change in US immigration law, #Wimbledon will be Djokovic’s last Grand Slam event of the year.
“US requires vaccination for foreigners to enter, and Djokovic has firmly said he has ruled out getting vaccinated, entrenching himself as an anti-vax posterboy.”
This led to an angry response from Djokovic’s wife of eight years, as she replied: "Just making sure that it is noted that YOU tagged him as an antivax poster boy for whatever reason you have. He simply responded what HIS body choice is.”
Rothenberg then responded: “I understand that it's his choice, but I also am saying that his decision to be so firmly against the vaccines that it limits his ability to play tournaments has made him, unwittingly or not, into a huge icon of the anti-vax movement. I saw this very clearly during Australia.”
The conversation continued, with Jelena accusing Rothenberg of being “judgemental,” and for creating a "very judgmental narrative that fits your agenda.”
“He is simply choosing what’s best for his body. If he is not playing because of making that choice, he is fine with it.”
Rothenberg continued: “I can accept judgmental, I believe every citizen, especially public figures, had a duty to act responsibly with public health actions and messaging during the pandemic, and as someone who has covered Novak as the influential champion he is, he repeatedly disappointed me deeply. Is that judgmental? Perhaps. But this stuff is important."
Jelena refused to back down and added: “Thank you for sharing your beliefs. I hope you don’t get judged for them. Or become a poster boy for hatred and bullying. You never know. You are also an influential figure, please don’t continuously disappoint. Unless that’s your role.”
Djokovic has no desire to slow down on the court after claiming his 21st Grand Slam title to move within one of Rafael Nadal’s all-time record.
His former coach Bogdan Obradovic is confident that the former world no.1 can not only surpass that number, and revealed that his ex-student is hoping to amass an incredible haul of 30 Grand Slam titles.
However, his anti-vax status could prove determinantal to his progress, with a report from the Telegraph claiming that there are no plans to relax American immigration rules that state all incoming travellers need to have undergone vaccination for Covid.
Djokovic said on the subject: "I'm not vaccinated and I'm not planning to get vaccinated so the only good news I can have is them removing the mandated green vaccine card or whatever you call it to enter United States or exemption.”
"I'll wait hopefully for some good news from USA because I would really love to go there. If that doesn't happen, then I have to see what the schedule will look like."
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