With twenty grand slams, a number one ranking, and a worldwide profile, tennis star Novak Djokovic has in recent years taken the sport by storm. Recently, however, he has been in the news for all the wrong reasons.

The tennis star was deported on Sunday following a second court ruling upholding the Australian government’s decision to refuse him a visa. Many Djokovic supporters bring this decision down to the fact that he ‘contracted’ Covid in the weeks prior to the tournament. However, the decision and the ensuing controversy have left no party involved in a positive light.

Ambiguity Over Vaccination Stance

The facts surrounding the case remain hazy.

Upon arriving in the country, the documents the tennis star presented did not meet Australian immigration requirements. Djokovic was presented with two options: return home or reside in an immigration detention centre until a formal decision is made. We know that the latter option was taken, but after nearly two weeks in detention perhaps Djokovic now wishes he had chosen differently.

Since the issue arose, Djokovic’s unvaccinated status has been at the centre of scrutiny. For several days there was much uncertainty about the ‘medical exemption’ he had claimed in order to enter the country — especially when ordinary citizens require proof of vaccination.

Further confusion surrounded the tennis player’s views on vaccines. A 2020 BBC interview reveals Djokovic’s hesitancy in getting the vaccine. After admitting that he was ‘opposed to vaccination’, he then added that he would like to keep an ‘open mind’ but would prefer ‘to choose what’s best for my body’.

A Responsibility to the Public?

In Djokovic’s absence, English stars Andy Murray and Emma Raducanu are ‘the ones to watch’. For Djokovic, an Australian Open win would have marked his 21st Grand Slam victory, making him the most successful male tennis player of all time. But now we’ll never know.

Professional tennis can be very lucrative. But with fame and status comes responsibility. Some argue that a high-profile player like Djokovic should be an ambassador and role model when it comes to divisive issues like the Covid vaccine.  Although the majority of European countries have not made vaccination mandatory, Djokovic’s hesitancy in refusing to be vaccinated (or disclosing his reasons for this) can be seen to show a lack of moral courage.

Speaking to tennis viewers, a BBC journalist was told by a boy: ‘If he plays, I will not watch him’.

Leader of the opposition Labour Party, Anthony Albanese, criticized the Victoria State Government and Tennis Australia over their decision to grant Djokovic a visa in the first place, saying: ‘This has been diabolical for Australia’s reputation […] Either he was eligible or he wasn’t’.

As things stand, Djokovic and the world will now have to wait for his reappearance on the court at the French Open in late May. Crucially, if he remains unvaccinated, will it be a case of déjà vu for the tennis star and another win for the vaccine league?

DISCLAIMER: The articles on our website are not endorsed by, or the opinions of Shout Out UK (SOUK), but exclusively the views of the author.