Novak Djokovic ‘wants to stay’ in Melbourne to compete at the Australian Open

While Novak Djokovic has never been as beloved as Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, most tennis fans respected him, at the very least, and enjoyed the energy and work ethic he brought to the game. Novak made Federer and Nadal better players while he exposed the flaws in their games, and they both kind of hate him for it. Novak also inspires the younger players too, which is another reason why his anti-vaxx stance has been so infuriating: he has a responsibility to role model good pandemic behavior to the young players who look up to him. Regardless of the Number 1’s anti-vaxx stance, 97% of the men’s tour is now vaccinated. Novak is one of only a few holdouts.

My point about tennis fans respecting him is… that’s gone now. The Australian debacle has irreparably damaged his career and his reputation. Novak either lied about getting Covid on December 16th, or he actually got Covid on that date and proceeded to do several public events maskless and infecting children. Either option is awful, but apparently it doesn’t matter. Novak “won” in court, and I truly don’t see Australian authorities trying to revoke his visa again. Novak was released from the detention hotel yesterday, and hours after his release, he posted this on his social media:

— Novak Djokovic (@DjokerNole) January 10, 2022

— Novak Djokovic (@DjokerNole) January 10, 2022

People were like: dude, aren’t you ashamed? Rafa basically called all of this a clownshow. Other players are openly talking about how embarrassing this is for the sport. I can see how, in Novak’s mind, he thinks he won some major victory and he was proven “right.” When in truth, none of this would have happened if he had just gotten the f–king vaccine.

So what’s next? Novak clearly intends to play the Australian Open, which starts next Monday. The draw will be made in a few days and Novak is the #1 seed. Rafa is the #6 seed. They could conceivably meet in the quarterfinals, just based on ranking. When Novak steps out onto Rod Laver Arena, will Aussies boo him? Will they clap and cheer? And what about after Australia? The NY Times’ Christopher Clarey has a lengthy story about what the tour will look like this year, as Covid is everywhere but tournaments still won’t do hard vaccine mandates. Clarey brings up an interesting point, which is that players entering the US to play in Indian Wells and Miami in March will likely need to be fully vaxxed. Will Novak skip the Sunshine Double? France is already making noise about how players won’t have to be vaccinated to play at Roland Garros, but those statements are already being loaded down with asterisks.

The ATP finally issued a statement about the Djoko Debacle Down Under. Their statement makes the (valid) point that Australian authorities half-assed Novak’s visa revoke and basically said that the debacle was “damaging on all fronts,” for Novak and for Australia. Then the ATP went off at the end of their statement:

More broadly, ATP continues to strongly recommend vaccination for all players on the ATP Tour, which we believe is essential for our sport to navigate the pandemic. This is based on scientific evidence supporting the health benefits provided and to comply with global travel regulations, which we anticipate will become stricter over time. We are encouraged that 97 per cent of the Top 100 players are vaccinated leading into this year’s Australian Open.

[From The ATP Tour]

Then mandate vaccines! Stop pussyfooting around! Just mandate it and let the chips fall where they may. If Novak is going to be this big of a baby about it, guess what? That hurts the tour too.

Last thing: Novak’s family did a press conference several hours after Novak was released. They shut down the presser when they were asked about Novak socializing with children maskless after he tested positive for Covid.

— James Gray (@jamesgraysport) January 10, 2022

Photos courtesy of Instagram, Avalon Red.

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