Novak Djokovic’s longstanding and adamant stance on blocking the COVID-19 vaccine may change in the near future. The world No.1 tennis player is believed to have had a change of heart after Rafael Nadal overtook him and Roger Federer to win a record 21st Grand Slam in men’s singles at the 2022 Australian Open on Sunday . (More tennis news)
The 34-year-old Serb, who plays in 20 majors with fellow Federer, was barred from defending his Australian Open and potentially winning a 21st Grand Slam title after his visa was canceled twice , unleashing a global storm. Novak Djokovic has been sent off for failing to follow Australia’s COVID-19 protocols.
According to Djokovic’s biographer Daniel Muksch, the Serb was inspired by the success of his longtime Spanish friend and rival on the pitch.
Congratulation to @Rafael Nadal for the 21st GS. Incredible achievement. Still an impressive fighting spirit that ruled another time. Enhorabuena 👏🏆👍 @Medwed33 gave his all and played with the passion and determination that we expect of him. pic.twitter.com/DsOvK8idNc
—Novak Djokovic (@DjokerNole) January 30, 2022
“From what I’ve heard from those around him, I think he’s getting vaccinated,” Muksch told Spanish outlet Marca. “Maybe the Australian final contributed (to this decision). It may be that Nadal’s 21 Grand Slam tournaments push him to do so,” added the German writer.
Not good for Australia
Djokovic’s visa was first canceled on January 6 just after he arrived in Melbourne for failing to comply with Australia’s COVID-19 regulations. He spent a few nights in a detention hotel before winning a legal battle and began training to defend his Australian Open crown.
I am happy and grateful that the judge overturned the cancellation of my visa. Despite everything that’s happened, I want to stay and try to compete @Australian Open
I stay focused on that. I flew in to play one of the biggest events we have in front of amazing fans. 👇 pic.twitter.com/iJVbMfQ037
—Novak Djokovic (@DjokerNole) January 10, 2022
However, just days before the start of the tournament proper, Australian Immigration Minister Alex Hawke personally canceled his visa once again, saying his presence in the country could incite “civil unrest” and encourage others to avoid vaccination against COVID-19.
According to documents filed by Novak Djokovic’s lawyers in federal court during his 11-day ordeal in Australia, the tennis star first tested positive on December 6 before returning a negative result six days later.
However, BBC research found the serial number of Djokovic’s positive test on December 16 was out of sequence with a sample of tests from Serbia during the period. Meanwhile, Serbian prosecutors on Wednesday quashed all discrepancies and declared the COVID test results valid.
Former Grand Slam champion Mats Wilander and former UK No.1 Tim Henman believe Djokovic could struggle in the coming year if he doesn’t get a shot. Henman said everything that happened with Djokovic in Australia was disappointing for everyone, including the fans.
“I’m crossing my fingers that we don’t have to see something like this in the future,” Henman told Eurosport.com. “It would seem very difficult for him to continue his professional career if he is not double vaccinated.
“It looks like he’s going to be quite limited with the countries he can enter,” Henman said. Even, said two-time Major champion Garbine Muguruza, Djokovic could have avoided all the controversy if he had followed the rules.
“All of this could have been avoided, like we all did, by getting vaccinated, doing whatever we had to do to come here to Australia,” said Muguruza, who earned a first-round exit at the Australian Open 2022, had said before the tournament.
What is the next step ?
The future definitely looks bleak for an unvaccinated Djokovic. Regarding his defense of the French Open title at Roland Garros, French authorities have implemented a COVID pass rule for large venues and senior officials in the country have said there is no would have no exemption.
Djokovic may still have a chance at Wimbledon but must serve a mandatory 10-day quarantine period – a standard in England for unvaccinated visitors. The rules to enter the United States are similar to those of Australia, which calls into question its participation in the US Open.
Djokovic, who hasn’t spoken after his visa row, will be seen in action at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship this month starting on Valentine’s Day.
It will be love at first sight for the Serbian master!