Novak Djokovic has revealed he is an anti-vaxxer and that it could get in the way of his return to competitive tennis once the sport resumes from the coronavirus pandemic.
The men’s tennis world number one admitted his opposition to vaccinations, saying “I wouldn’t want to be forced by someone to take a vaccine” and that if it were made compulsory he would have to make a decision.
Prominent figures in tennis have said all players should be vaccinated when competition starts again, provided a vaccination against COVID-19 is produced by then.
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But speaking during a live Facebook discussion with several fellow Serbian athletes, Djokovic said: “Personally I am opposed to vaccination and I wouldn’t want to be forced by someone to take a vaccine in order to be able to travel.
“But if it becomes compulsory, what will happen? I will have to make a decision.
“I have my own thoughts about the matter and whether those thoughts will change at some point, I don’t know.
“Hypothetically, if the season was to resume in July, August or September, though unlikely, I understand that a vaccine will become a requirement straight after we are out of strict quarantine and there is no vaccine yet.”
Amelie Mauresmo, herself a former women’s tennis world number one, has said the sport should not resume unless players can be vaccinated, although scientists have repeatedly said that could be a year away and may not ever materialise.
Dual grand slam winner Mauresmo last month tweeted: “International circuit players of all nationalities plus management, spectators and people from the four corners of the world who bring these events to life. No vaccine = no tennis.”
The COVID-19 outbreak has seen tennis governing bodies suspend all tournaments until 13 July at the earliest.
Wimbledon has been cancelled for the first time since the Second World War, and the French Open has been put back four months until late September.
The main agencies which work to promote vaccination say they have been highly successful at saving lives in the last few years.
Much of the scepticism around vaccination stems from a discredited study by British surgeon Andrew Wakefield that erroneously linked autism to the MMR vaccine. That study has been retracted, and nine years ago Wakefield was struck off the UK medical registry.