Updated: January 10, 2022 10:26:05 am
Let’s get one thing absolutely clear. In this entire saga, Novak Djokovic is not the only one at fault. There was an avenue for an unvaccinated player to be granted medical exemption. He applied, Australia gave.
Now who ‘Australia’ is – Tennis Australia, the Victoria state government, or the central government itself – that’s not his concern. But he’s the one put into detention.
And so, the candle-lit protest marches have taken place. Vigils have been held. Srdjan, Djokovic’s father, has likened his son to Spartacus and Jesus. An attack on Djokovic, Serbia’s citizen No.1, is an attack on the Balkan nation itself is the narrative back home.
The recurring theme is being revisited – of ‘Serbia vs the world’ whenever it comes to tennis and the ‘west’ not ‘loving’ Djokovic as much as they would Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.
Now it seems the nine-time Australian Open champion is being used as a scapegoat, most likely to bolster a political campaign that has so far been unpopular because of the shortcomings in its anti-Covid measures.
Keep in mind, there is an election coming up in Australia, so what better way to swing public sentiment than to ensure the world’s most famous anti-vaxxer is denied entry into the country.
It’s an ugly episode that has led even the outspoken Djokovic-basher, Australia’s mercurial Nick Kyrgios to side with the Serbian. But amidst the unexpected support Djokovic is receiving, let’s not forget he’s been irresponsible when it comes to setting an example as a public figure during the pandemic.
It isn’t just the anti-vax stance that has been alarming. His lackadaisical attitude during the first phase of the pandemic has been a concern. In June 2020 – long before there was such a thing as a Covid vaccine – he decided to stage the Adria Tour, a charity-event that turned out to be a super-spreader.
He remains adamant against taking the Covid-19 vaccination, despite – if his lawyers are to be believed – him contracting the virus twice, the first time being just after the Adria Tour.
Court documents related to Djokovic’s plea against visa cancellation published by the federal court on Saturday say he had tested positive for Covid-19 on December 16.
As of Saturday evening, almost 5.5 million people have been lost to the virus. Scientists have managed to come up with vaccines which, though may not be foolproof, will at least soften the blow.
But Djokovic, staunch in his belief of unconventional methods, refuses to change his mindset.
On the one hand, you can understand that an athlete who has to take so much care of his 34-year-old body is reluctant to use a vaccine created in a laboratory. On the other hand, you have a global pandemic wreaking havoc. If being fully vaccinated is one way to reduce the spread of the virus and infections, perhaps there is some merit in it?
But Djokovic is known to make statements which are not backed by established science.
He participated in an Instagram Live session, where he claimed that water can be purified simply by positive thoughts. And then there was the incident where his wife Jelena promoted the idea that the virus can be spread by 5G internet services.
He is a very, very good tennis player. The Greatest of All Time.
But with great fame comes great responsibility. And in times like these, someone as famous as him needs to set an example. He remains a divisive figure.
He refuses to take the vaccine, hosts events without basic safety measures in place, but donates generously to hospitals, sets up and funds charities and looks out for his fellow players.
But now he needs to come to grips and understand the repercussions of the stand he’s taken. He’s been secretive about his vaccination stance because it’s a ‘private matter’ to him.
He will not declare if he recently tested positive unless he’s detained and stood in front of a Judge.
It is still unclear if he will be able to go ahead with his record-breaking Grand Slam bid. That could be known on Monday. Djokovic could use the time in his hotel room, where he is temporarily detained, to introspect about the message he is sending across as a role model by believing in alternative science at all costs.
Less secrecy on his part, when the world is fighting a virus surge, may have made life easier for him on arrival in Australia. It would have also been the right thing to do.