Media playback is not supported on this device Is the Djokovic-Federer rivalry over?
Novak Djokovic’s father says his son may skip the Australian Open in January over the demands of getting a vaccination and having the shot reversed.
Fifty players and tour officials have signed a letter saying they would boycott the event to protest over the exemption from vaccination rules.
It claims about one-third of players have ‘concealed concerns’ about the vaccine, even though most are aware it is safe.
“Now we’ll wait to see if Novak can go to Australia,” Djokovic’s father Viktor said.
Speaking to the media, the Serbian added: “The issue has been complicated for Novak because he does not see where he can take a clear stand with all the players and officials.
“He will be struggling for a positive decision and how to take care of the best interests of his health.”
Novak Djokovic will appear at this year’s French Open
Novak Djokovic, who has suffered from a recurring elbow injury, said he would consider not attending the tournament in Melbourne unless strict vaccination rules were overturned.
“As an athlete, as a champion and someone who has great responsibilities in terms of using vaccinations, this is an enormous responsibility,” he added.
“It is not something that I feel I want to ignore and do it in a way that has consequences that affect me or those around me.”
The World Health Organisation recommends that children get a Hib vaccine to protect against meningitis before starting school.
Djokovic said he had kept the vaccine’s “current interpretation” of immunisation out of his mind over the years but it had changed last week because of a scientific paper by Prof David Taylor.
He added that his non-vaccination status would force him to miss at least a month of playing, including the French Open, the current Grand Slam tournament he won in 2016.
‘I worry about the long-term’
World number one Rafael Nadal and Rafael Nadal, who is second in the rankings, said they would consider not playing Melbourne because of the ban.
“I have high regards for the very top players who play the Australian Open and who respect the right of others to make an informed decision regarding health issues,” tournament director Craig Tiley said.
“Novak has a medical exemption and this is something we always, always, always recommend.”
The exemption from mandatory vaccination applies to children who live with parents who are international tour players.
“The experience of letting the exemption remain un-notified over the past few years has caused considerable distraction in tournaments all over the world, which I completely understand and understand the implications of,” World Tennis governing body WTA chief executive Steve Simon said.
“On the other hand, we also know that being vulnerable and unable to defend a title is even worse.
“It is also important to recall that as an organisation we support the right to education for young people. We have previously supported high awareness programmes on the subject but need to ensure as a policy that we protect the best interests of all players on the tour while working together with all our partners to ensure that a proper and formal vaccination policy is established.”
‘Countries pushing for the best player’
Mikaela Shiffrin, the Olympic and multiple world champion, believes countries are attempting to gain the greatest value from the young players.
“If this is going to benefit the health of the kids in the country or if it’s going to make them better athletes, let them be better athletes,” she told BBC 5 live.
“Give them the choice – make it mandatory to get the vaccinations, regardless of the money involved in the tournament.”
In response to the letter, Chris Kermode, chief executive of the All England Club, said “the best interests of the sport must come first”, describing the letter as “divisive and contrary to our values”.
Moved from Hibernation One
Novak Djokovic could face an altogether different opponent if he returns to Australia after the Hibernation One event at the indoor 60,000-capacity AMEX Tennis Garden on 29-30 May.
“There’s a chance to beat Roger and be the new favorite,” World Tennis governing body WTA chief executive Steve Simon told BBC Sport.
“I think there’s a different dynamic with people saying he’s not going to come back as a champion and not play well.
“It really changes the timing. We’ve seen in other sports when Roger’s not playing and other stars get opportunities.
“I hope he comes back but it’s not our decision.”