But this is far from the first time Djokovic’s beliefs have made global headlines and the Covid-19 pandemic has been a strong catalyst.
New York Times tennis reporter Ben Rothenberg tweeted out after the news of Djokovic’s visa rejection that the Serbian had been “wildly anti-science” over the years.
“Let’s not lose sight of how wildly anti-science Djokovic has publicly been for years,” Rothenberg began. “Here he was last year preaching about how you can change water with emotion.
“Naive, but maybe these real consequences today can be a reality check for his nonsense?”
Former New York Times reporter Steven Greenhouse said it was “sad to see such a brilliant tennis player join the anti-science, pro-poppycock anti-vaxxers”.
Tennis Channel producer David Kane added: “I sort of don’t care whether Australia bungled L’Affaire Novak because of political/media pressure. This is about someone who has been stridently anti-science and never indicated a good faith effort to receive this essentially mandatory vaccine.F around & find out, as they say.”
Adria Tour exposes Djokovic’s ‘scepticism of science’
Djokovic reportedly arrived in Australia relying on the fact he had caught the virus within the past six months.
In a 2GB segment on Wednesday afternoon, 9 News political editor Chris O’Keefe revealed Tennis Australia approached the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) regarding Djokovic’s “natural immunity”, only to have it knocked back.
O’Keefe reported the belief that natural immunity from catching Covid is “recognised in several European countries, not recognised in Australia”.
At the time, Rothenberg said the tennis star’s “scepticism of science” no doubt contributed to his decision to push forward with the tournament during a global pandemic.
“I think that Djokovic’s health opinions and views are probably a part of this; he has been sceptical about a vaccine,” he told OTB Sports.
“He has brought all kinds of weird pseudoscience people on his channels, bringing on all kinds of strange gurus to talk about changing water with positive thinking and things like that.
“The scepticism of science did him no favours here. When he talks about veganism and meditation, that is completely fine and is his prerogative to do.
“When he starts preaching more things that could be misleading and dangerous to people … is not a positive thing to be doing with his platform.”
‘Dangerous conspiracy theories’ the tip of the iceberg
Even before the Adria Tour however, Djokovic had come under fire for pushing the idea that people can change the make up of food and water with their thoughts and emotions.
Djokovic has been an outspoken advocate of alternative medicine. He even reportedly delayed elbow surgery to see if his injury would heal itself without an operation before ultimately deciding to go under the knife.
“It’s the connection that you’re talking about, the innate connection and really being present and being conscious of the moment and being conscious of the fact you’re drinking water,” Djokovic said.
“I’ve seen people and I know some people that, through that energetical (sic) transformation, through the power of prayer, through the power of gratitude, they manage to turn the most toxic food or the most polluted water, into the most healing water.
“Because water reacts and scientists have proven that, that molecules in the water react to our emotions, to what is being said.
“I truly believe that we should continuously, every single day that when we sit, we sit without cameras, without phones … or even worse having nervous discussions and conflictual (sic) discussions at the table with your close ones during your meal.”
Former tennis star turned sportscaster Mary Carillo said she was “very disturbed” by the statements, while Sports Illustrated’s Jon Wertheim said: “It’s a very short jump to these conspiracy theories which now, more than ever, are really dangerous.”
Djokovic has long been criticised for his trips to Visoko in Bosnia and Herzegovina where he meets with businessman Semir Osmanagic who claims ancient man-made structures in the area have magical healing powers. Scientists have refuted the claims.
He has also promoted the writing of controversial writers including Jovan Deretic, who has been described as an “ultranationalist alternative historian”.
Novak Djokovic and vaccinations
Last year Djokovic hit back in an interview with the New York Times, saying: “I am not completely against vaccines of any kind.”
“My issue here with vaccines is if someone is forcing me to put something in my body,” he said. “That I don’t want. For me that’s unacceptable. I am not against vaccination of any kind, because who am I to speak about vaccines when there are people that have been in the field of medicine and saving lives around the world?
“I’m sure that there are vaccines that have little side effects that have helped people and helped stop the spread of some infections around the world.
“How are we expecting that to solve our problem when this coronavirus is mutating regularly from what I understand?”
He had also said in April 2020 he was opposed to getting vaccinated in order to be able to travel, while his wife Jelena had appeared to suggest 5G was to blame for the virus just one day later.
However, his belief that Covid is not a big issue was laid bare at the 2021 Australian Open when Djokovic issued a letter to Australian Open boss Craig Tiley to organise special treatment for the international tennis stars.
Djokovic was criticised by some players at the time as he flew into Adelaide instead of Melbourne, which offered more freedom at an exhibition tournament for some of the biggest names in world tennis.