Novak Djokovic reflects on being ‘declared a villain of the world’ over Australian Open vaccine saga

Novak Djokovic hits the deck

Novak Djokovic has spoken about the saga surrounding his deportation ahead of the 2022 Australian Open and said he was “basically declared as a villain of the world.”

The legendary Serb revealed this was the only time he has felt he had “most of the world against me” outside the court, while he also reiterated his stance on vaccination.

Djokovic missed both the Australian Open and the US Open in 2022 due to his decision not to have the Covid-19 vaccine, which was required to enter both countries at the time.

The 36-year-old has also missed out on other prestigious tournaments in recent years, such as the Masters 1000 events in Indian Wells and Miami in both 2022 and 2023.

The Serbian was detained after arriving in Melbourne ahead of the 2022 Australian Open, despite being given a medical exemption to enter Australia without having had a vaccine. He won a court case to quash the initial ruling for his travel visa to be cancelled by the Australian Border Force (ABF).

However, Djokovic was forced to leave the country after Immigration Minister Alex Hawke’s decision to revoke his visa for a second time was upheld in court.

READ MORE: Seven moments from Novak Djokovic’s interview – when he was ashamed of himself and a Carlos Alcaraz confession

Djokovic claimed a record-extending 10th Australian Open title on his return to Melbourne in January this year – his first of three Grand Slams in a stunning 2023 season.

Speaking in an interview on 60 Minutes on CBS News, Djokovic was asked by journalist John Wertheim how much of a toll the controversy in Melbourne last year took on him.

“It did [take a toll]. I was basically declared as a villain of the world, you know, and I had basically, yeah, most of the world against me,” the 24-time Major champion said.

“I had that kind of experience on the tennis court, with crowds that were not maybe cheering me on. But I never had this particular experience before in my life.

“(On the reaction of Australian public) The point is that it was not up to me to read anybody. I got the exemption, I got the permission to come into the country. And of course it escalated to the highest of the highest levels globally.

“People tried to, you know, declare me as an anti-vax. I’m not anti-vax. Nor am I pro-vax. I’m pro-freedom to choose.”

READ MORE: Novak Djokovic hailed for embracing ‘villain’ role and tackling haters by former world No 9