Novak Djokovic has held his first press conference since being deported from Australia — and couldn’t answer the big question.
Novak Djokovic has made several dramatic statements as he held his first press conference since being deported from Australia.
Djokovic claimed on Monday morning ahead of his return to the ATP Tour this week in Dubai there has been a general backflip from his fellow tennis players in the locker room, claiming to have been given a “positive” reception.
It comes after Djokovic last week broke his silence on the Australian immigration saga that saw him get detained by Australian Border Force in Melbourne and eventually have his visa cancelled twice before being sent back home.
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He said in the interview with the BBC he was left feeling hurt and abandoned by a cold reception from his tennis colleagues ahead of the 2022 Australian Open at Melbourne Park.
He said he was disappointed his colleagues didn’t engage with him or give him a chance to give his explanation for his refusal to get vaccinated.
“I had helicopters flying above every single training session that I had on Rod Laver Arena, cameras all over the place,” he told the BBC.
“Also, I felt that energy and that those looks from my colleagues and people that were in the tennis facility... that really hurt me a lot.
“And obviously, I understand that they had a perception that was based on what they were seeing from media reports. And I wasn’t going out in the media, because of what was previously said in respecting the legal process and respecting the Australian Open.
“But at that time, I really wanted to speak to everyone and give my explanation.”
A couple weeks later, he claims players have changed their tune.
“So far here most of the players that I’ve seen — I haven’t seen too many players — but most of the players that I’ve seen have been positive and welcoming. It’s nice to see obviously. I can’t say that was the case in Australia. It was a little bit strange. But here it’s well so far,” the 34-year-old Serb said.
He returns to the tour this week at the ATP Tour’s Dubai Tennis Championships, where he will be competing for the first time since the Davis Cup Finals in Madrid last December.
Ahead of his opening round against Italian wildcard Lorenzo Musetti, Djokovic, conceded he was unable to answer an ongoing question surrounding his vaccination saga.
Djokovic was last month caught out when explaining his grounds for being granted a “medical exemption from COVID vaccination”, claiming he had recently recovered from the virus.
The “exemption certificate” said the date of Djokovic’s positive Covid-19 PCR test was December 16, 2021
Doubts still remain over the timing of Djokovic’s positive PCR test and he could not offer any further clarity on the matter when asked on Monday.
“I understand [why people have questions],” he said.
“I’ve seen that media has been speculating about the validity of the tests. What I can tell you is what I told Amol with the BBC. I’m not an IT expert. I have done in the last two years, as probably anybody else on the tour, so many PCR tests, rapid antigenic tests. I’m not in a position to understand how these tests are being processed and registered.
“I’m glad that Institute For Public Health in Serbia has come out publicly and validated those tests. That’s all I can say really. I’m not in a position, neither I’m an expert, to go more into detail.”
Djokovic got back to training 10 days after he returned from Australia, and admits he needed some time to recover mentally.
The 20-time major champion said what happened in Australia made him “sad” and “disappointed” but he soon felt motivated to get back on the tennis court.
“I’ve been playing tennis for the last two and a half, three weeks. I’ve been enjoying it. I love the game, I love just hitting the tennis ball, so it wasn’t really difficult for me to pick up a racquet and go out on the practice court and just play,” said Djokovic, who is targeting a sixth Dubai title this week.
“Knowing I was coming to Dubai, I had something to work for, I had a goal. So now that I’m here I could say that I am as well-prepared as I possibly can be and I’m excited to, again, be on the tour.”
In an interview with the BBC, Djokovic said he was willing to forgo the chance to compete at any tournament, including the Grand Slams, if any of those events had a vaccine mandate.
He is aware he may not have many opportunities to play as an unvaccinated individual, which means planning his schedule in advance will become increasingly difficult moving forward.
“I just have to follow the rules. Whatever tournament that I’m able to play, I’ll be trying to get to that country and play the tournament,” he said.
“I really can’t choose right now. It’s really about where I can go and play. Wherever I have an opportunity, I’ll be using probably that opportunity and going to play because this is what I do, it’s what I love to do still.” Djokovic, who was eclipsed by Rafael Nadal on the men’s all-time list of most Grand Slams won, thanks to the Spaniard’s Australian Open last month, might relinquish his number one ranking on February 28 to Daniil Medvedev, who is playing in Acapulco this week.
The Serb, who begins his record 361st week at the top of rankings on Monday, is unaware of all the scenarios that might lead to his dethronement and is instead focusing on winning all his matches in Dubai.
“He deserves to be number one,” Djokovic said of Russian world number two Medvedev.
“Eventually it’s going to happen. If it happens this week, I’ll be the first one to congratulate him.”
It comes after he conceded it was “selfish” of him to conduct a face-to-face interview knowing he had tested positive to Covid-19 two days earlier.