Tennis superstar Novak Djokovic is suffering from a serious condition – extreme self-importance complicated with delusions of grandeur.
In a revealing interview, the world’s number one men’s tennis player clearly sees himself as a martyr willing to spurn a covid jab because only he knows what’s best for his body.
This refusal to be vaccinated is the ultimate act of selfishness. Sod the rest of you, Djokovic seems to be saying – the millions of mugs who’ve reluctantly been jabbed to protect others and support their communities – I, Novak Djokovic, operate in a bubble of one. I am a demi-God who makes their own rules.
After weeks of silence (following his deportation from Australia for refusing to comply with the immigration rules) Djokovic has chosen to share his thoughts regarding Covid in an interview with the BBC. Some have derided it as a misguided PR exercise, a blatant attempt to place himself back in the public eye after the disastrous events in Australia a few weeks ago when he went from hero to zero in a day, sparking violent demonstrations and political controversy.
The debacle at Melbourne airport’s Border Control in January cost Djokovic his 21st Grand Slam title (along with his credibility) – missing a chance to be crowned the greatest player of all time. In the event, his great rival Rafa Nadal took the trophy home, after an epic five and a quarter hour match which some have called the greatest final of all time.
Instead of basking in glory Djokovic became a laughing stock, loathed by Aussies for trying to skirt around the rules they had been forced to follow for months. All the other rubbish didn’t help his case either- not coming clean about whether he had been jabbed. Not being completely straight about his bout of Covid in December or his traveling arrangements or his two tests. Not telling us he mingled with children at a tournament in Serbia after testing positive.
As Djokovic languished in detention in a crummy hotel with asylum seekers, politicians and lawyers argued about his status. Other players – who had been vaccinated in order to play – were reluctant to trash Djokovic but secretly many thought that his actions were just plain dumb at worse, hard to justify at best. Bad for their sport.
Now, he’s decided to tell his story in an exclusive interview with the BBC’s fawning Amol Rajan.
In it, the tortured tennis star has decided to play a new game- the role of martyr to the anti-vax cause. He’s willing to cut short his brilliant career, sacrificing his chances of becoming the most successful player of all time – simply because his body is a temple which will not be defiled by anything as controversial as a vaccine – even if 10 billion doses of that vaccine have been administered globally to more than 6 in 10 people with few side effects.
He’s adamant – even though a highly infectious disease has claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of older and vulnerable people in every country and is still infecting the unvaccinated in every age group.
Even though over 90% of those in intensive care globally are unvaccinated, and the long-term effects of Covid will be impacting on their lives for years to come.
It’s so pig-headed, so irrational, I want to smack some sense into this stubborn, ill-informed man out of sheer frustration. How can he deny millions of superfans like me the chance to enjoy his superb sporting prowess on the tennis court, because he’s chosen to believe a bunch of half-baked conspiracy theories about Covid vaccines gleaned from the internet? Djokovic exudes sulky self-righteousness like a dumb teenager, not the highly intelligent strategist he’s shown us in match after match over the past decade.
He says he doesn’t want to be the poster boy for the anti-vax movement, but it’s hard to see how one of the world’s most inspiring sportsmen can avoid being put on a pedestal by those who are willing to break laws and flout rules in the name of ‘freedom’ to choose.
Along with the right to decide our futures, we also must weigh up our responsibility to society at large. If we are citizens in a democracy, then we must consider the common good, not just the ‘rights’ of each individual.
But what community is Djokovic part of? He lives in Spain, has amassed millions in prize money and sponsorship. This complex man has come a long way from his tough childhood, growing up during two horrible wars in the former Yugoslavia. His family made so many sacrifices to fund his early career, and he is regarded as a national hero in his native Serbia.
So, he’s not just a sportsman, he’s regarded as a role model to the young people living in his mother land. Doesn’t he owe it to them to encourage a responsible, informed attitude to help prevent the spread of covid?
Djokovic is highly educated and speaks six languages. But he can come across as introspective, almost cold. Crowds used to find it hard to connect with him on the court as he seemed to embark on each battle on his own terms, almost ignoring the supporters who had paid so much to cheer him on.
Over the years he’s mellowed a bit, but he still struggles to achieve empathy with his audiences. Perhaps he thought this interview would rebrand him as a modern libertarian, someone who has thought seriously about health and medicine.
Instead, he comes across as a single-minded weirdo, who says ‘we are all trying to find collectively, a best possible solution to end Covid’. By refusing to be jabbed – even though he has caught the virus twice – he has set back the task of vaccinating the poorest, the vulnerable and the stubborn, by years.
He’s still waffling about the two Covid tests he produced to enter Australia, even though the BBC research casts doubt on the timing of the second, positive test which he thought would gain him exemption from vaccination.
He claims he’s not anti-vaccine BUT is willing sacrifice trophies by refusing to be jabbed – which led Ryanair to post on twitter- ‘we’re not an airline but we do fly planes #Djokovic.
Other sportspeople – like Kyrie Irving who plays for the Brooklyn Nets NBA basketball team is also not vaccinated and New York laws ban him from playing at indoor venues. Chelsea football stars who are not vaccinated cannot play in France. With 80% of British Premier league players vaccinated, the ones who have refused cannot play in some European games.
Sporting stars must set an example, and Djokovic’s stance is disgraceful.
Five-time Wimbledon winner Pam Shriver says his attitude is ‘terrible for tennis’. Although non-vaccinated travelers can now enter the UK, I hope that the Wimbledon authorities tell the tortured Serb where he can park his racquet.
As for the US Open; vaccination certificates are compulsory and so he will miss a long list of tournaments in the run-up to the Open in August.
Let’s hope Sleepy Joe doesn’t turn out to be a Djokovic fan and bend the rules. Somehow, I doubt it.