While Novak Djokovic was quick to extend his congratulations to Rafael Nadal for making history at the 2022 Australian Open as he lifted his 21st Grand Slam trophy above his head, you can’t help but think the Serbian tennis star watched the game feeling a sense of regret. With Nadal’s victory, the record-win Djokovic was himself chasing eclipsed him and now, he doesn’t just have to win another Grand Slam to equal Nadal, but a second after that to land in the record books. For Djokovic, watching the game was a reminder of the tournament he was unable to compete in despite being the star who dominated on the Australian courts for so long. It was a reminder of the saga surrounding his visa, Covid-19 vaccines, and the subsequent deportation from Australia.
Recently, Djokovic sat down with the Serbian President where he spoke publicly about the drama that surrounded him after touching down in Australia with a medical exemption for his unvaccinated status. The world No.1 thanked the president and fans for their support “during the unfortunate events in Australia” ahead of the grand slam.
“Although I was alone in detention in Australia and faced many problems and challenges, I did not feel lonely,” he expressed. “I had huge support primarily from my family, all of the close people in my life, entire Serbian nation, many people with good intentions from the region and the world.”
Djokovic then went on to encourage his fans to “be patient” and said he would make an address to the media in the coming days. “I haven’t spoken in public in regards to the events that happened in Australia, and this is the first time that I have come out in public,” he added.
Despite being told by Tennis Australia that he would be able to compete at the Australian Open on a medical exemption, Djokovic instead found his visa revoked twice as he didn’t meet Australia’s Covid-19 entry requirements. After an 11-day drama, he was deported. While Djokovic has long maintained that vaccination is a personal right and kept quiet about his own reasons against being vaccinated, his biographer has now claimed the Serbian is looking to get the vaccine.
Author Daniel Muksch, who has penned A Lifetime At War, a book chronicling the life of the 20-time grand slam champion that comes out later this year, said watching Nadal become the most successful men’s player of all time stoked a fire inside Djokovic and prompted the change in attitude. “From what I have heard from those around him, I think he is getting vaccinated,” Muksch reportedly told Servus TV. “Maybe that final in Melbourne also contributed to that. Rafael Nadal’s 21 is driving him, no question.”
Upon hearing the news, Australia’s Health Minister Greg Hunt was quick to tell reporters that he was delighted to hear Djokovic might get the jab and in doing so, possibly encourage others to do the same. “I think that will encourage more people who have been hesitant to be vaccinated and that would be the real win out of this. I hadn’t heard that. I’m delighted if that is the case,” he said.
“But to everybody, doesn’t matter where you are, whether you are overseas or in Australia, first dose, second dose, booster, everything you are eligible for, it will help protect you. Please come forward.”