Novak Djokovic | Photo: AP
London: Novak Djokovic said in an interview broadcast Tuesday that he is prepared to skip the French Open and Wimbledon if vaccination against the coronavirus is required for him to play.
Speaking to the BBC, the 20-time Grand Slam champion said he is still not vaccinated against COVID-19. That status also led to his January deportation from Australia, where he lost his bid to stay in the country to defend his Australian Open title.
The tennis player told the BBC that missing the next two majors, where he is also the defending champion, and other tournaments is “the price that I am willing to pay.”
“I understand the consequences of my decision,” Djokovic said. “I understand that not being vaccinated today, you know, I am unable to travel to most of the tournaments at the moment.”
The 34-year-old Serb said he is not opposed to vaccinations but believes in “the freedom to choose what you put into your body. And, for me, that is essential.”
“I am trying to be in tune with my body as much as I possibly can," he said, adding that he has always been careful about everything he ingests. “Based on all the information that I got, I decided not to take the vaccine, as of today."
Asked if he would be prepared to miss the French Open in May, he repeated: “That is the price that I am willing to pay.”
Also asked if would be ready to skip Wimbledon, he added: “Yes.”
“Because the principles of decision-making on my body are more important than any title or anything else," he said.
Djokovic has won the French Open twice, including in 2021, and has six Wimbledon titles, including the last three.
Djokovic, however, distanced himself from anti-vaccination campaigners. Some claimed him as their hero during the saga in Australia.
“I have never said that I am part of that movement," Djokovic said, although he also said that “everyone has the right to choose, to act, or say what ever they feel is appropriate for them."
Vaccination rules in France could change in the months before Roland Garros, possibly allowing Djokovic to play. The country has started to ease some of its health and travel restrictions as it recovers from a record surge in infections fueled by the highly contagious omicron variant.
The French government last week gave an end-of-March, beginning-of-April timeframe for the possible lifting of its vaccine requirement that, at the moment, puts unvaccinated players at risk of missing the French Open.
From Tuesday, anyone who is not vaccinated against the coronavirus will need to show proof they tested positive for COVID-19 within the previous four months — down from the previous six-month window — in order to enter sports venues in France. The French law, which operates under the assumption that you have some protection from the virus if you've recently had it, aims to bar unvaccinated individuals from stadiums, restaurants, bars and other public places.
Djokovic has previously said that he tested positive in mid-December. If the four-month requirement stays in force, it is likely to rule him out of the French Open unless he gets vaccinated or tests positive again within four months of the start of the clay-court Grand Slam on May 22.