Novak Djokovic is known as the top tennis player on the planet, and one of the greatest players of all time in general. Shortly into the new year, however, the 86 time title winner ran into trouble and controversy due to his unvaccinated status while attempting to play in the Australian Open.
Djokovic had tested positive for COVID-19 a few weeks before traveling to Australia for the tournament, and used that as the reasoning behind his being unvaccinated. The situation quickly escalated and eventually resulted in Djokovic being detained by the Australian Border Force in an immigration detention hotel while awaiting a hearing.
Since that point, none of the noise around Djokovic has been about tennis, and instead has shifted to the controversy and debate around vaccines, something we’ve unfortunately become all too familiar with in the sports world.
On Tuesday of this week, Djokovic gave an interview with the BBC, in which he stated plainly that he would rather miss out on future tournaments and potential trophies than comply with the proper vaccine mandates and that the decision making on his body is more important than winning any titles. The Djokovic saga had been relatively quiet this month, but now the world’s best tennis player has again broken his silence and is continuing his stand against vaccine mandates.
He went on to say in the interview that he does not want to be associated with the anti-vax movement, but supports individuals’ rights to make a choice when it comes to the COVID-19 vaccine.
Despite Djokovic’s claims that he simply cares about individual rights and choices, he admitted back in January that a few weeks previously, he had been notified of his positive test result, did not isolate and still attended an interview and photo shoot while making no mention of his positive test result, putting the health of many others in jeopardy along with his own.
Djokovic’s sentiment in the wake of this controversy has been to make himself seem like a victim and that he’s being forced to live under harsh mandates and rules. However, he has done little to address the legitimacy of the virus, and being an A-list athlete, he is well aware of the kind of international sway he has.
If Djokovic publicly says things that are anti-vax, even if he himself claims to not want to be associated with the anti-vax movement, many people who admire him have and will follow suit. It’s a trend that has not been limited to Djokovic, as many athletes have stirred controversy for their vaccine hesitancy or lack of following COVID protocols.
The future for Djokovic
Djokovic is the greatest men’s tennis player of the last decade, and has still been ranked #1 for an astonishing and record-breaking 360 consecutive weeks. He’s won 86 titles and has a mind-boggling career singles record of 989-199.
His greatness on the court will never be in question. However, the unnecessary controversy he’s been creating will affect his legacy. People around the world will remember the way Djokovic has conducted himself over the past couple months, and he will likely not be allowed to participate in any tournaments, opens or other official ATP sanctioned events.
This could all be more or less resolved by Djokovic simply agreeing to take the vaccine which would allow him to return to the court. The US Open, French Open and Wimbledon are not too far down the road, and it’s hard to believe that Djokovic would simply accept missing them while he still has some prime years left. He’s the No. 1 tennis player in the world for a reason, but right now his legacy and future are both up in the air.