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Novak Djokovic entangles sponsors in Australian Open vax uproar

So far, there's no sign Djokovic's sponsors, including French automaker Peugeot, clothing brand Lacoste and Swiss watch maker Hublot, plan to drop him.

By: AP |
January 14, 2022 11:04:59 pm
Novak DjokovicA billboard depicting Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic on a building in Belgrade. (AP)

A lot of people are angry at Novak Djokovic. And his sponsors may just wait it out.

The world’s top-ranked men’s tennis player is the top seed and defending champion at the Australian Open. But it’s unclear if he can compete Monday after Australian officials again revoked his visa because he lacks a COVID-19 vaccine, leaving his attorneys to appeal his possible deportation.

The Serbian, known for his gluten-free diet and use of hyperbaric chambers, isn’t giving up the fight to seek his 21st Grand Slam. It’s his chance to overtake Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal as the men’s recordholder — and every brand loves a winner.

So far, there’s no sign Djokovic’s sponsors, including French automaker Peugeot, clothing brand Lacoste and Swiss watch maker Hublot, plan to drop him.

He has $30 million worth of endorsement deals, according to Forbes, making him among the highest-paid athletes in the world. Still, he has never had the broad appeal of Federer, who makes triple the amount from endorsements despite losing his No. 1 crown years ago and being sidelined with injuries.

Novak Djokovic A mural depicting Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic on a wall in Belgrade. (AP Photo)

Federer’s squeaky clean image, underscored by his calm demeanor on court, has won him near universal adoration by fans and officials. Djokovic, meanwhile, has his brash moments like smashing his racquet and confronting referees, which some brands may be gambling is a hit with fans.

There is a line though, and one thing sponsors have to determine is whether an athlete acted illegally or immorally if they want to try to use a bad behavior exit clause in a contract, said Tim Crow, a U.K. sports marketing consultant.

In Djokovic’s case, “that’s pretty nuanced,” Crow said.

If he’s allowed to play, and wins, there will be even less pressure for sponsors to act.

“He will be labeled as the most successful male player of all time.”

Serbs dismayed as Djokovic’s visa again revoked in Australia

Novak Djokovic’s supporters in Serbia were dismayed Friday after waking up to the news that the top-ranked tennis player again faces deportation from Australia after his visa was revoked for a second time.

Novak Djokovic fans A supporter of Serbia’s Novak Djokovic holds a banner that reads: ”We all are Nole (Novak)” during protest in Belgrade. (AP Photo)

Australia’s immigration minister used his ministerial discretion to cancel the 34-year-old Serb’s visa on public interest grounds — only three days before play begins at the Australian Open. Djokovic is the defending champion at the season’s first Grand Slam tournament and has won a record nine of his 20 major titles at Melbourne Park.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic later accused the Australian government of “harassing” and “maltreating” Djokovic and asked whether it is just trying to score political points ahead of upcoming elections.

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