Novak Djokovic on being close to not playing at US Open, his stance on vaccines and Adria Tour ‘witch hunt’
In a candid interview, Novak Djokovic has opened up about being “very close” to not travelling to New York for the US Open, how his comments about being forced to take a coronavirus vaccine was taken out of context and why he believes he didn’t do “anything bad” with regards to the Adria Tour.
The world No 1 hit the headlines regularly during the five-month enforced break because of the coronavirus and it was not always for the right reasons.
First there were reports that he was an anti-vaxxer and that was followed by his controversial Adria Tour, which came to an abrupt halt after a string of players and non-players tested positive for coronavirus.
There was also talk that he could skip the US Open due to Covid-19 and the possible quarantine regulations, but last week he put that to rest by confirming he will play in New York.
In an interview with The New York Times he revealed that he made the decision to play in the US Open after players were assured by governments that they would not have to go into quarantine after travelling back to Europe from the United States.
“I was very close to not coming,” he said. “There were a lot of uncertainties. And there still are, yeah, a lot of things that are not really clear.”
He continued: “I want to play. I mean that’s why I’m here. I am personally not afraid of being in a risky, dangerous health situation for myself. If I felt that way, I most likely would not be here. I am cautious of course, and I have to be responsible and of course respect the regulations and rules and restrictions as anybody else. But things are unpredictable. Anything can happen in the tennis court or off the tennis court.”
During the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic he admitted that he would be opposed to a compulsory coronavirus vaccine and was accused of being an anti-vaxxer.
However, he maintains that he is “not against vaccination of any kind”.
“I see that the international media has taken that out of context a little bit, saying that I am completely against vaccines of any kind,” he said. “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.”
He added: “How are we expecting that to solve our problem when this coronavirus is mutating regularly from what I understand?”
Just after talk about his stance on vaccination had died down, he was back in the news over the controversial Adria Tour.
The exhibition event was organised to raise funds for humanitarian projects in the Balkans, but many were unhappy that it was held in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic and some raised concerns about the lack of safety measures during the tournament.
The Adria Tour was called off midway through after Djokovic, his wife Jelena, several other players and non-playing members tested positive for Covid-19.
Naturally he copped a lot of flak, but he insists they had the right intentions and feels the criticism was part of a “witch hunt”.
“We tried to do something with the right intentions,” the 17-time Grand Slam winner said. “Yes, there were some steps that could have been done differently, of course, but am I going to be then forever blamed for doing a mistake? I mean, OK, if this is the way, fine, I’ll accept it, because that’s the only thing I can do. Whether it’s fair or not, you tell me, but I know that the intentions were right and correct, and if I had the chance to do the Adria Tour again, I would do it again.”
He added: ‘I don’t think I’ve done anything bad to be honest. I do feel sorry for people that were infected.
“Do I feel guilty for anybody that was infected from that point onward in Serbia, Croatia and the region? Of course not. It’s like a witch hunt, to be honest. How can you blame one individual for everything?”
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