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Djokovic would 'miss Wimbledon rather than get Covid jab' but denies being anti-vax
15 February 2022, 07:44 | Updated: 15 February 2022, 07:52
Tennis star Novak Djokovic has said he would rather miss future tournaments than be forced to get his Covid vaccines - but he has denied he is an anti-vaxxer.
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When asked if he would not defend his Wimbledon or French Open titles if the tournaments require mandatory vaccination for competitors, he said: "Yes, that is the price that I'm willing to pay."
He added: "I say that everybody has the right to choose or act or say or feel whatever is appropriate for them."
But he said the idea of him being an anti-vaxxer was a "misconception".
"I have never said I'm part of [the anti-vaccine] movement," he said.
"It's really unfortunate that there has been this kind of misconception and wrong conclusion based upon something that I completely disagree with."
The men's number one confirmed he had received vaccinations as a child and did not rule out getting Covid jabs in the future.
"We are all trying to find collectively, a best possible solution to end Covid," he said, in an interview with the BBC.
"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."
Djokovic was deported from Melbourne ahead of the Australian Open last month amid concerns about his vaccine status.
It came after he tried to claim exemption from Australia's stringent vaccine rules on the grounds of being recently infected with the virus.
But that in itself sparked controversy, after it emerged he carried out an interview shortly after testing positive.
He was also pictured at an event with children, though he claimed that by then he had not received his PCR result.
He was deported over concerns his attitude would stoke anti-vaccine sentiments in Australia if he was allowed to remain.
"He's a high-profile person who is in many respects a role model for many people," said Stephen Lloyd, for Australian immigration minister Alex Hawke, in court.
"His presence in Australia would present more strongly to Australians his anti-vaccination views.
"People use high-level athletes to promote ideas and causes all the time.
"His connection to a cause, whether he wants it or not, is still present."
Djokovic previously clarified he was not opposed to vaccination, but is against being forced to take one to travel to tournaments.
The Serbian is set to return to action at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, which begin on February 21.
Entrants to Dubai do not need to be vaccinated against Covid-19 and it is a tournament Djokovic has won five times.