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The moment of truth is fast approaching for Novak Djokovic as he is about to be forced to answer a question he has avoided for so long.
The world No.1 and reigning Australian Open champions has refused to confirm whether or not he is vaccinated against Covid-19 and while many suspect the Serb is reluctant to take the jab, he is now about to be placed in a position he had hoped would never transpire.
If Djokovic refuses to take a vaccine, he will be blocked from defending his Australian Open title in Melbourne in the opening month of 2022 and that may only be the start of his problems.
While he has a right to refuse to take a vaccine, his abstention from the Australian Open will instantly catapult him to a position he would not want to fill, as a poster boy for the world’s increasingly vocal anti-vaxxer movement.
With the new Omicron variant of the virus sparking concerns around the world in recent days, protests against vaccines have become increasingly vocal and large in Holland, Ireland nations across the globe in recent days.
Yet Djokovic will not want to be drawn into a political debate that could see him hailed as the highest-profile ‘hero’ of their movement.
While he received justified criticism for arranging a tournament in his home country at the height of the first wave of the pandemic that resulted in a wave of players contracting Covid-19, the 20-time Grand Slam champion will not want to find himself cast into the political spotlight again at the start of the New Year.
Yet the decision over whether he will take the vaccine and take part in the Australian Open may have already been made, as he will need to have had his first jab by now if he is to be double vaccinated in time for the event in last January.
Djokovic has been playing for Serbia in the Davis Cup in recent days, with his father Srdjan suggesting his son will not be traveling to Australia.
“As far as vaccines and non-vaccines are concerned, it is the personal right of each of us whether we will be vaccinated or not,” stated Djokovic Snr.
“No one has the right to enter into our intimacy. Under these blackmails and conditions, (he) probably won’t play. I wouldn’t do that. And he’s my son, so you decide for yourself.”
Meanwhile, Djokovic’s former coach Boris Becker has suggested the 34-year-old will not miss the chance to win his 21st Grand Slam.
“I can’t imagine that he won’t play in Australia,” the three-time Wimbledon champion told Eurosport Germany’s podcast Das Gelbe vom Ball.
“He loves the sport too much for that, he loves tennis history too much for that. He wants to reach the 21 Grand Slam wins. Australia is his best Grand Slam. He has already won nine times there. Why shouldn’t he win a 10th time?
“He says it is his personal decision whether to get vaccinated or not. It is nobody’s business. I’m with him on that, but if he wants to play on the tennis tour, he just has to follow the rules. That means he has to be vaccinated in order to play.”
Djokovic now finds himself in an unenviable position and if the widespread suspicion that he will not take a vaccine to travel to Australia proves to be correct, he will instantly be installed as one of the most high-profile anti-vaxxers in an increasingly venomous debate that has long since become toxic.
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