By Lexi Meola
Elm Staff Writer
The first tournament of the Grand Slam season for tennis — the Australian Open tournament — ended on Jan. 30. Rafael Nadal won the tournament and earned his 21st Grand Slam title, making him the top Grand Slam title holder for men’s tennis.
However, Nadal’s groundbreaking win was not the biggest story of the Australian Open. Nadal’s victory was overshadowed by men’s tennis player Novak Djokovic’s selfish decisions regarding COVID-19 protocols and vaccination.
Many were shocked when Djokovic announced on Instagram that he was getting on a plane to Australia, despite his decision not to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
According to The New York Times, “State government and Australian tennis officials had granted Mr. Djokovic an exemption from COVID-19 vaccination rules that would allow him to compete in the event.”
Tennis players and fans alike were appalled that Djokovic would be allowed to compete, especially considering how strictly Australia enforces its COVID-19 policies.
News quickly spread amongst the players participating in the Australian Open, and Djokovic’s vaccination exemption became the main topic for journalists to ask players about during press conferences. It was clear that some players were fed up with being asked about the situation when they could be discussing tennis.
Djokovic’s refusal to get vaccinated drew attention away from the sport at hand and put everyone at the tournament at risk.
Out of 128 men’s singles players at the Australian Open, Djokovic was the only player who was unvaccinated. Djokovic’s actions made it clear that he did not care about the safety of the people around him.
According to CNN, on Dec. 17, 2021, Djokovic received a positive COVID-19 test but was photographed — unmasked — with 26 children at a local tennis tournament.
In a statement on Jan. 11, Djokovic claimed he took a rapid antigen test before going to the event, and it was negative. However, he had taken a polymerase chain reaction test the day prior and received notification after the tennis tournament in Belgrade, Serbia that it was positive.
Djokovic also decided — after finding out he had tested positive for COVID-19 — to do an interview with L’Equipe, which further displayed his unwillingness to consider the safety of those he was interacting with.
According to CNN, “Journalist Franck Ramella and photographer Etienne Garnier were not told Djokovic was COVID-19-positive before, during, or after the interview with the tennis star in Belgrade.”
Djokovic decided to take his mask off during the photoshoot, and in doing so endangered both the photographer and reporter from L’Equipe.
Djokovic’s carelessness during the COVID-19 pandemic is unbecoming of someone who is a well-respected role model for many young tennis players. Djokovic is beloved in the tennis community, but after the debacle with the Australian Open, many fans lost respect for the world-renowned athlete.
Djokovic continues to show the public time and time again that he has no sportsmanship or care for other peoples’ health. His celebrity status and notable wins should not protect him from the consequences of his deplorable actions.
Though Djokovic put many people in harm’s way, it looks as though he will face challenges should he wish to compete in the future.
French Open tournament participants will have to follow France’s new law regarding vaccination status this May.
According to ESPN, “France’s vaccine pass law, approved by parliament…will require people to have a certificate of vaccination to enter public places such as sports venues, restaurants, cafes, cinemas and long-distance trains.”
This means that if Novak Djokovic wishes to play in France, he must get vaccinated. The question remains, however: will he get over his ego so he can continue to play tennis? Or will he continue to ruin his image on and off of the tennis court?
Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Featured Photo Caption: Novak Djokovic’s refusal to get the COVID-19 vaccine caused tension amongst the Australian Open tournament competitors.