After the debacle that was his attempted Australian Open campaign, Novak Djokovic has reportedly changed his tune on vaccinations.
Reports have emerged claiming Novak Djokovic’s biographer believes the tennis star is going to get vaccinated.
Author Daniel Muksch — who has written A Lifetime At War, a book chronicling the journey of the 20-time grand slam champion that comes out later this year — suggested watching Rafael Nadal win a historic 21st major is what may convince Djokovic to get the jab.
“From what I have heard from those around him, I think he is getting vaccinated,” Muksch reportedly said on Austrian TV station Servus TV.
“Maybe the final in Melbourne also contributed to that. Rafael Nadal’s 21 is driving him, no question.”
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Djokovic sent a classy message to Nadal after his Melbourne Park triumph over Daniil Medvedev, and also congratulated Aussie Ash Barty for winning the women’s singles title.
“There has been some outstanding tennis played at this year’s #AusOpen and the finals were exceptional. Congratulations to @ashbarty for an amazing performance in front of her home crowd and to Danielle Collins for an incredible tournament,” Djokovic tweeted on Monday morning.
“Congratulations to @RafaelNadal for 21st GS. Amazing achievement. Always impressive fighting spirit that prevailed another time.”
Djokovic added Medvedev “gave it his all out there and played with the passion and determination we have come to expect from him”.
“You put up one hell of a fight today and I know you will have many more Grand Slam wins in your future,” he wrote.
Djokovic’s deportation meant he was unable to challenge for a 10th Australian Open crown and push ahead of Nadal and Roger Federer on the list of all-time men’s major winners. The Big Three were level on 20 grand slams each at the start of the year before Nadal took the outright lead in Melbourne when he beat Medvedev in a thrilling five-set final.
But the Spaniard — who is eyeing another trophy at his favoured French Open in May — doesn’t believe 21 grand slams will be enough to keep the record forever.
“I have no idea what number of grand slams I will have,” Nadal said at a press conference at his academy in Mallorca.
“Not long ago I would have signed for just being able to play tennis again.
“I want to be the one with the most majors out of the three of us, I would love that, but I’m not obsessed, absolutely not.
“Whatever comes is welcome and I don’t think 21 is enough to be honest. But you never know what will happen in the future.”
Djokovic has made no secret of his desire to win the most majors of any male tennis player in history and will be desperate to overtake Nadal. However, uncertainty remains over his eligibility for future majors in Paris, London and New York if he chooses not to get vaccinated.
Djokovic has been accused of holding “wildly anti-scientific” beliefs and was roasted for ignoring the threat of Covid by pushing ahead with his ill-fated exhibition tennis tournament when the pandemic was in full swing in 2020.
The same year in a Facebook live chat with other Serbian athletes, he said of vaccines: “Personally I am opposed to vaccination and I wouldn’t want to be forced by someone to take a vaccine in order to be able to travel.
“But if it becomes compulsory, what will happen? I will have to make a decision. I have my own thoughts about the matter and whether those thoughts will change at some point, I don’t know.”
Speaking to the New York Times later in 2020, Djokovic added: “My issue here with vaccines is if someone is forcing me to put something in my body. That I don’t want. For me that’s unacceptable.
“I am not against vaccination of any kind, because who am I to speak about vaccines when there are people that have been in the field of medicine and saving lives around the world?
“I’m sure that there are vaccines that have little side effects that have helped people and helped stop the spread of some infections around the world.
“How are we expecting that to solve our problem when this coronavirus is mutating regularly from what I understand?”
Djokovic arrived in Melbourne in early January but was deported ahead of the Australian Open after the Federal Court upheld Immigration Minister Alex Hawke’s decision to cancel his visa.
The unvaccinated star and Tennis Australia believed the Serbian was eligible for a medical exemption to enter the country and compete, because he had been infected with Covid-19 in December.
However, there was plenty of confusion about whether contracting the virus within the past six months was a valid reason to avoid vaccination and receive an exemption.
A furious backlash erupted when news of Djokovic’s exemption was made public via an Instagram post and he was detained at Tullamarine Airport upon arrival, then subsequently spent time in hotel detention as his final legal challenge to stay in Australia fell through.
Damning Djokovic rumour denied
Meanwhile, Djokovic’s Covid tests submitted to Australian officials last month were legitimate, Serbian authorities said on Thursday, after a string of media reports questioned the authenticity of the documents.
Serbia’s prosecutor’s office said there was no evidence suggesting the tests had been manipulated, according to an inquiry by the country’s health ministry.
“It was established that Novak Djokovic was tested multiple times and the … test results from December 16 and December 22 were valid,” read the statement from the office.
The statement came just days after the BBC published a report casting “doubt” over the tests, suggesting the serial number on the documents were out of sequence with others from roughly the same period.
Serbian officials have not responded directly to the allegations levied by the BBC and other news outlets who have raised similar questions.
Despite missing the Australian Open, Djokovic remained world number one in the rankings released earlier this week and extended his record-breaking run in the top spot to 358 weeks.
Since returning from Down Under last month, Djokovic has kept a relatively low profile, making just a handful of public appearances.
On Friday, Djokovic is scheduled to meet Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic in Belgrade where he is expected to make a brief public address.