Novak Djokovic might strengthen his COVID-19 vaccine stance despite his Australian Open ordeal, according to long-term friend and former WTA star Flavia Pennetta. Djokovic, a vaccine sceptic, had his visa revoked upon entry into Australia earlier this month and was barred from defending his title.
The world No. 1 landed in Melbourne at the start of January in the knowledge that he had been granted a medical exemption to take part in the Grand Slam.
Djokovic is not vaccinated against Covid, which caused concern due to Australia’s high vaccination rate.
Upon trying to enter the country, he was detained in a state-run immigration facility and told he would have his visa revoked.
Djokovic initially won an appeal in a court but following an intervention by Immigration Minister Alex Hawke, who reserved the right to revoke the visa, the same court ruled in favour of the Australian government and sent the Serb packing.
Australia has imposed strict rules upon its citizens during the pandemic and Hawke was able to argue that it was in the interests of public health for Djokovic to be deported amid concerns his presence may spur anti-vaxxers.
The Australian Open is being played without the defending champion, who is not commenting until the culmination of the tournament.
But that has not stopped his fellow stars from being asked about his situation. According to 2011 Australian Open winner Pennetta, Djokovic is unlikely to budge on his vaccine stance and may take an even more stubborn view to it despite the threat of being banned from more tournaments.
“I have no idea [how he is going to play at tournaments that require mandatory vaccination]. I doubt [he will get vaccinated now],” the 39-year-old said.
“He will remain faithful to himself, perhaps even more than before. It will be a hell of a life, being unvaccinated.”
Pennetta, a former world No. 6, has however conceded that she would call Djokovic a ‘fool’ for remaining in Australia when it was becoming increasingly clear that he would be deported.
“I have unvaccinated friends who are not named Novak Djokovic. I am for the freedom of choice but [only as long as it] doesn’t affect anyone else.
“If I had him here, I would say: ‘My friend, you are a fool. You could have stayed at home quietly with your wife and your children.’
“It would have been better not to challenge Australia, a country that absolutely does not share the no-vax stance. He could have started the next season, and none of this would have happened.”
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It is unclear when Djokovic will continue his 2022 season.
The 34-year-old was handed a boost earlier this month with new rules in France allowing unvaccinated people to get Covid passports if they have tested positive and recovered in the past six months. Djokovic, who is unjabbed, tested positive for the virus on December 16, according to his lawyers, meaning under the new rules he would be permitted to enter France to compete the French Open, which is due to take place across May and early June.
The French Tennis Association also said that discussions were ongoing with the country’s government over allowing unvaccinated stars to compete at the tournament earlier this month.
The FTA’s president, Gilles Meretton, said: “Our teams work in collaboration with public authorities, who will clarify the rules for welcoming foreign non-vaccinated athletes for our tournament in a timely manner.”
Published at Tue, 25 Jan 2022 13:52:00 +0000