Novak Djokovic shares desperate plea for public image in aftermath of vaccine scandal

Novak Djokovic reacts to his recent media coverage

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Novak Djokovic has admitted he’s “hoping” to receive better media coverage after his Australian Open fiasco. The world No 1 drew criticism when he arrived in Australia unvaccinated and was later deported after having his visa cancelled twice. Djokovic has finally been able to open his 2022 season in Dubai, 80 days after his last match.

Djokovic made headlines worldwide when he had his visa cancelled by border officials when arriving in Melbourne for the Australian Open unvaccinated, having been granted a medical exemption by Tennis Australia.

The world No 1 was kept in a government detention hotel while awaiting an appeal hearing which he won on the grounds of procedural fairness but his stay was short-lived, as Immigration Minster Alex Hawke used his personal powers to cancel Djokovic’s visa for a second time, on the basis that his presence in the country could “excite anti-vax sentiment”.

As Djokovic prepared for a second appeal hearing, this time at Federal Court, documents were released showing he had tested positive for Covid on December 16 – the grounds for his medical exemption proving he had recently recovered from infection.

The timing of his test drew more criticism, as it was revealed the 20-time Grand Slam champion had attended a children’s tennis event in Serbia on December 17, handing out awards and mixing with the children without wearing a mask.

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A L’Equipe journalist then confirmed they had interviewed Djokovic in person on December 18, and had never been made aware of the 34-year-old’s Covid infection before, during or after their face-to-face meeting, though said he wore a mask.

The Serb later released a statement, saying he had not yet received the result of his PCR when attending the children’s tennis event on December 17 but admitted to knowingly attending the L’Equipe interview the following day while being infectious.

He was ultimately deported from Australia on the eve of the tournament, and has only just started his 2022 tennis season at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.

Ahead of his return to competition, Djokovic gave his first in-depth interview since the visa saga to the BBC, admitting he would happily miss the likes of Wimbledon and the French Open if they required vaccination, to uphold his beliefs.

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“I was never against vaccination. I understand that globally, everyone is trying to put a big effort into handling this virus and seeing, hopefully, an end soon to this virus,” he said in the interview, admitting he personally didn’t want the Covid vaccine.

The world No 1 has now shared his hopes to shift his public perception to a more positive one in the wake of his BBC interview.

Speaking about his media image in Dubai, where he showed no lack of form by defeating Lorenzo Musetti 6-3 6-3 in his opening match, Djokovic said: “I really don’t know. Of course, there was not many positive articles about this whole situation in the last month or so.

“But ever since my interview with BBC, I think things are maybe shifting a little bit. I’m hoping.”

The 34-year-old admitted he knew there were still some doubts after his fiasco Down Under but shared his intentions to be honest in answering questions.

“I understand there’s still a lot of speculations and people questioning,” he added.

“I’ve always been open and transparent, try to speak with the media that maybe criticizes me more or not, I’m open to answer any question.

“Hopefully things will shift in a positive way for me.”

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