Novak Djokovic would skip French Open, Wimbledon rather than take COVID-19 vaccine

·3 min read

Novak Djokovic says he's not "against vaccination."

But if he's required to take a COVID-19 vaccine to play in Wimbledon and the French Open, he'll pass on both tournaments.

Djokovic spoke with the BBC about his vaccine stance in an interview published on Tuesday. He insisted that he's not an anti-vaxxer.

"I've never said that I'm part of that movement," Djokovic told the BBC.

He also acknowledged that he hasn't taken a COVID-19 vaccine and doesn't intend to do so moving forward — even it if costs him access to Grand Slam tennis tournaments. When asked if he's willing to miss the French Open and Wimbledon to remain unvaccinated, Djokovic was clear.

"Yes, that is the price I'm willing to pay," Djokovic answered.

Tennis - ATP Finals - Pala Alpitour, Turin, Italy - November 15, 2021 Serbia's Novak Djokovic during his group stage match against Norway's Casper Ruud REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane
Will Novak Djokovic play in a Grand Slam this year? (Reuters/Guglielmo Mangiapane)

Why Djokovic says he isn't vaccinated

When pressed about his stance, Djokovic reiterated his belief that everyone should have the freedom to choose whether or not to be vaccinated. He didn't address the negative public health impacts that come with a personal choice to refuse a vaccine that's dramatically thwarted the impact of a virus that's killed more than 5.8 million people.

He instead maintained that in his position as a professional athlete, he's meticulous about what does and doesn't go into his body.

"Me as an elite professional athlete, I've always carefully reviewed, assessed everything that comes in from supplements, food, sports drink, the water that I drink, sports drinks — anything that comes into my body as a fuel," Djokovic said. "Based on all the information that I got, I decided not to take the vaccine."

Djokovic didn't divulge exactly what information convinced him against taking a vaccine that's received full FDA approval in the United States whose rare instances of side effects are overwhelmingly outweighed by the risk of catching and spreading COVID-19. He's never addressed those specifics publicly, but has provided insight into what influences his beliefs.

He's appeared on a video with a coach who promotes telepathy and telekinesis. He's hosted Instagram chats with a wellness guru while claiming that toxic food and polluted water can be purified via emotions, prayer and "energetical transformation."

“I know some people that, through energetical transformation, through the power of prayer, through the power of gratitude, they managed to turn the most toxic food, or maybe the most polluted water, into the most healing water, because the water reacts,” Djokovic said during a 2020 livestream, per the New York Times. “Scientists have proven that in experiment, that molecules in the water react to our emotions to what has been said."

Will Djokovic play in Grand Slams this year?

Djokovic trails Rafael Nadal for the most career Grand Slam titles won by a man. He, Nadal and Roger Federer were tied atop that list with 20 before Nadal won the Australian Open in January to claim his 21st. Djokovic missed the Australian Open because he was deported after the Australian government revoked his visa because of his vaccination status.

French officials announced in January that Djokovic won't be granted an exception to a government mandate requiring French Open participants to be vaccinated. Those rules could change along with the ever-evolving COVID-19 climate by the time the French Open is played in May. But if the status quo remains, it sounds like Djokovic won't be at Roland Garros.

As for Wimbledon and beyond? We'll have to wait and see.