Why Novak Djokovic’s anti-vaxx stance could cost him more than just the Australian Open

Djokovic’s deportation saga may be the start of a majorly disrupted year of tennis. (AP Photo/Darko Bandic) Photographer: Darko Bandic Provider: AP Source: AP (Credits: AP)

Novak Djokovic could face missing more tennis tournaments in 2022 after being deported from Australia over his anti-vaxx stance.

The Serb will not be able to defend his Australian Open title after immigration minister Alex Hawke revoked his visa, with Djokovic admitting his team had made errors when applying for a medical exemption to a rule which stipulates that people who are not vaccinated against Covid-19 cannot enter the country.

A court refused to uphold the 34-year-old’s appeal over the weekend and Djokovic was deported back to Belgrade via Dubai, meaning his wait to win a 21st Grand Slam title — which would take him ahead of great rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal — must go on for at least a few months longer than anticipated.

In transcripts of an interview with border force officials publicly released last week, Djokovic admitted to be unvaccinated but gave no explanation as to why he had refused the jab. Australians have been living under some of the strictest Covid-19 regulations in the world since the onset of the pandemic almost two years ago, and government ministers feared that anti-vaxx sentiments could be stoked by Djokovic’s presence in Melbourne.

Now, Djokovic’s entire 2022 season has been thrown into chaos, as the possibility of him being forced to miss both the French and US Open Grand Slams becomes more and more likely.

The French Open is due to begin in Paris on 22 May but new nationwide rules mean that unvaccinated people are barred from restaurants, bars, sports arenas and more.

The French National Assembly approved the regulations on Sunday, and international sports stars fall under its remit. So, Djokovic would be allowed to enter France as things stand, but could not take part in the tournament.

President Emmanuel Macron, who faces a difficult re-election campaign against far-right counterparts Eric Zemmour and Marine Le Pen in May after five years in office, promised to ‘p*** off’ the unvaccinated with the country suffering a record number of Covid cases for a European nation in recent weeks.

The US Open beings on 29 August, meanwhile, and again Djokovic will face problems if the rules remain the same. Any non-US citizen must be fully vaccinated to enter the United States, meaning Djokovic will miss out until he opts to receive a jab.

That leaves Wimbledon as the only Grand Slam tournament Djokovic can currently participate in. The Serb would have to provide proof of a negative test upon arriving in the UK, but would crucially not need to be vaccinated.

The likes of ex-British number one Tim Henman, former coach Boris Becker, and new Australian open favourite Nadal have all told Djokovic that the easy solution to his current troubles is to simply vaccinate himself, but the Serb’s unexplained commitment to his anti-vaxx stance has yet to waver.

John McEnroe slams Australia over Novak Djokovic deportation: ‘It’s total bull****’

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