World number one tennis star Novak Djokovic said he is willing to give up the race for tennis’ Greatest Of All Time title and chances at future grand slam titles over his refusal to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
Speaking with the BBC the Serbian tennis sensation said he did not want to be associated with the anti-vax movement, but as it stands he will not receive the vaccine.
It is unclear whether the 20-time Slam champion will play at Roland Garros, Wimbledon or the US Open later this year given the potential changes in tournament and national vaccine requirements.
As Djokovic refused to get vaccinated for the the Australian Open, Rafael Nadal won his second title at Melbourne Park.
This takes the Spaniard into the lead, with 21 Grand Slams, ahead of both Djokovic and Roger Federer.
“That is the price that I’m willing to pay,” he said.
Djokovic said he was vaccinated as a child, but that “I’ve always supported the freedom to choose what you put in your body.
“The principles of decision making on my body are more important than any title or anything else. I’m trying to be in tune with my body as much as I possibly can.
“I was never against vaccination. I understand that globally, everyone is trying to put a big effort into handling this virus and seeing, hopefully, an end soon to this virus.”
“It is hard to know what more Novak Djokovic needs or wants to know (about vaccines),” the BBC’s medical editor Fergus Walsh said.
Djokovic also rejected suggestions his second positive Covid test, which occurred in late December just before he flew to Australia, was falsified.
There is confusion over the timing of codes on the official PCR tests he submitted upon entry.
"I understand that there is a lot of criticism, and I understand that people come out with different theories on how lucky I was or how convenient it is," Djokovic said.
"But no-one is lucky and convenient of getting Covid. Millions of people have and are still struggling with Covid around the world.
"So I take this very seriously, I really don’t like someone thinking I’ve misused something or in my own favour, in order to, you know, get a positive PCR test and eventually go to Australia.
"Absolutely, the visa declaration error was not deliberately made."
Djokovic was eventually deported before the Australian Open by immigration minister Alex Hawke on the grounds he could incite civil unrest and encourage anti-vaccine sentiment.