Novak Djokovic comment – Brutal reality of vaccine stance bites as No 1 ranking is gone

Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic insisted he was prepared to accept any sporting price to avoid being vaccinated against Covid-19 and now one of his biggest prizes in tennis will be torn away from him.

After a tumultuous start to 2022, Djokovic will be dethroned as the world No 1 by Daniil Medvedev next Monday, with the hammer blows continuing to land on the flesh of the 20-time Grand Slam champion.

Djokovic was relatively comfortable in his first two matches in his first event of the year in Dubai, but a combination of some unusual mistakes and an inspired opponent contributed to a 6-4 7-6 (4) defeat against Jiri Vesely that spells the end of Djokovic’s current two-year reign at the top of the rankings.

The Serbian has occupied the number one spot since overtaking Rafael Nadal on February 2, 2020, setting a new record last March for weeks at the top that currently stands at 361.

But next week that position will be taken by US Open champion Medvedev, who is through to the quarter-finals of the Mexican Open in Acapulco.

“It is great for tennis to have someone new at World No. 1,” said Vesely after his remarkable win. “Novak is such a champion, he has been No. 1 for 361 weeks, but tennis needs new World No. 1s and there is a new generation coming up and I think it is great.

“I never really thought I would have a chance against Novak. He is one of the greatest of all time. After the past 12 months, it is unbelievable. I have so many emotions inside. It is hard to describe. It is an amazing feeling.”

It seems inconceivable that a player who won three of the four major titles in 2021 and was a single victory away from completing the calendar Grand Slam is set to be dethroned at the top of the world rankings, but that will be his fate when the new ATP list is published next Monday.

Medvedev will claim the top spot for the first time in his career, with the points dropping off Djokovic’s rankings total in the first two months of this year ending his reign at the top of the tennis charts.

Of course, this scenario would almost certainly have been avoided if Djokovic has played at the Australian Open last month, yet his decision to stand a stand against vaccines saw him caught up in a political storm that ended with his deportation from Melbourne.

The 2,000 points he surrendered from his Australian Open win last year played a huge role in his demise as the world No 1, yet this is a calamity all of Djokovic’s making.

While the vast majority of tennis players opted to accept the conditions of entry to the first major of this year, Djokovic took a stand against vaccines that ultimately ensured he could not defend his crown in Melbourne.

With doubts over whether Djokovic will be allowed entry to Paris to defend his French Open title and the 2,000 points he collected from that event last year, there are also question marks over his entry into Italy to play in the Rome Masters event that saw him reach the final last year.

Now he has vowed to bounce back from this latest blow of losing the world No 1 ranking as he stated: “My goal is to keep on playing tennis. That’s the ultimate goal. For as long as I really feel like it and as long as I can play. As long as my body allows me, as long as the circumstances in my life as well, the people that surround me [and] support me.

“I’m still motivated and I’m still p***d off when I lose a match. I care about it. I care about winning every match, as anybody else on the Tour, regardless of the age. I’m actually glad that I’m feeling a lot of emotions every single day because it means that I really want to be part of this sport, part of the Tour.”

So it is not inconceivable that by the time he gets to Wimbledon in June, Djokovic could drop out of the world’s top five in the ATP rankings.

That debate is for another day as for now the tennis world is getting used to the reality that for the first time since 2004, Medvedev will become the first name not to be named Federer, Nadal, Djokovic or Murray to be crowned as the world No 1.

Djokovic’s passionate fans around the world will be expecting their icon to return to the top of the rankings sooner rather than later, but the vaccine stance he has taken means he is waiting for governments around the world to change their stance before he can resume his career in earnest.

With that in mind, there is no guarantee the world No 1 ranking that meant so much to him will be back in his grasp any time soon.