Novak Djokovic: ‘All of a sudden I became the villain of the world’

Novak Djokovic press conference Credit: Alamy
Novak Djokovic press conference Credit: Alamy

Novak Djokovic has reason to feel that he has been the subject of a media witch hunt off the back of his 2022 Australian Open deportation saga.

Djokovic feels that he was unfairly linked to Covid-19 and debates surrounding the vaccine as well as other elements of the pandemic such as lockdowns and mask mandates.

The former World No 1 is out to win his tenth Australian Open but hasn’t forgotten the events that unfolded last year.

“I was really drawn into a storm in media worldwide that was related to anything to do with COVID and the vaccine,” Djokovic told 9News Melbourne.

“All of a sudden I became the villain of the world which is obviously a terrible position to be in as an athlete.”

Djokovic added that even if he wanted to forget about 2022 in Australia, he wasn’t allowed to, having to answer questions about it wherever he went.

“ There was not a great narrative in the media about me at all,” he said.

“I stayed for several weeks at home, didn’t really go around too much. I just hoped that the situation would calm down, which it did, but the traces stayed there.

“The traces followed for several months after and I didn’t know it was going to affect my game and the way I play. It was not easy for me mentally to regroup and restart again.

“The traces of what was happening, I could still feel it. In every press conference I was asked at least one or two questions about Australia and what happened. Even if I wanted to move on, people were reminding me of that.”

Djokovic maintains that he was following the directions received from Australian Open organisers regarding his entry into the country and objects to how his actions were depicted in the press.

“I understood why they were frustrated, but I have to say the media presented it in a completely wrong way because that’s not what happened, and a lot of people still have the wrong idea about what happened,” he said.

“There were two or three more people that came into Australia 10 days before I did with exactly the same exemption that I had and I was just following the rules.

“My exemption was verified by an independent body and panel of doctors, so it was unknown who was giving the request, and I came in with all the valid papers.

“Everything got out of hand and then I was labelled as this or that. It was so big in the media that I just could not fight that, I didn’t even want to get into that.

“I obviously wanted to stay here and play tennis, but at some point with the amount of craziness going around I just wanted to get out and go back home. ”

Djokovic feels that he was made fair game for a smear campaign that may ultimately taint the legacy of a player who deserves to be called the Greatest of All Time.

“ It’s still unfortunate and it hurts me that most of the people will have a wrong idea about what happened. That’s what hurts me the most,” Djokovic added.

“The media has picked on me big time for several months and not in a positive note, so that has created a lot of disturbance to my brand and to me personally and people around me.

“It is something that you have to accept and deal with at the moment. I wouldn’t say that it is something that would destroy or eliminate everything that I have achieved on and off the court throughout my career.

“It was so impactful and it echoed so far around the world that a lot of people will still talk about and remember it for a long time and it is something that is going to follow me for some time.”

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