Novak Djokovic lived in two months of 2022 what the vast majority of tennis players did not live in an entire career: from the ambition of the tenth title at the Australian Open and the twenty-first Grand Slam to the threat of practically not playing in the whole season. And now, in a new twist in the Serbian saga, the possibility of playing in Monte Carlo and the French Open.
Jean Castex, French Prime Minister, announced Thursday that as of the 14th of this month his government will no longer require a health pass (or vaccination passport) to enter the country. This directly benefits Djokovic, who publicly admitted not being vaccinated, the ultimate reason for his deportation from Australia.
“The health situation is improving,” Castex told TF1 television on Thursday. Face masks will also no longer be needed indoors from March 14, with the exception of public transport.
The vaccine pass, however, remains mandatory to access elderly home care centres, the prime minister added.
Two weeks ago, during an interview with the BBC, Djokovic confirmed suspicions that he has not been vaccinated against the coronavirus, although he went much further: he is willing to ruin his successful tennis career.
“Yes, that is the price that I’m willing to pay,” Djokovic said during an interview in which he explained what happened at the recent Australian Open, in which he was unable to compete due to the decision of the country’s authorities.
Djokovic said he does not consider himself part of an anti-vaccine movement and explained his reasons for not immunizing against covid-19.
“Because the principles of decision making on my body are more important than any title or anything else. I’m trying to be in tune with my body as much as I possibly can.”
Before France’s announcement, the non-vaccination meant for Djokovic, most likely, not playing the majority of tournaments in the 2022 season, in which his ambition was to continue adding Grand Slam titles and break the 20-20-20 tie in terms of trophies he has with Switzerland’s Roger Federer and Spain’s Rafael Nadal.
Winner of the 2022 Australian Open, Nadal has now 21 Grand Slam trophies. It was therefore essential for Djokovic to be able to play at Roland Garros.
Djokovic spent a week struggling to get into Australia only to be deported. The Australian federal authorities considered him a public health danger as a possible enhancer of the anti-vaccine movement.
The world number one does not rule out the possibility of getting vaccinated in the future. He says he has an “open mind” in that sense: “We are all trying to find collectively, a best possible solution to end Covid”.
He added: “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.”
The French authorities’ decision is the first positive development in 2022 for Djokovic, who in addition to being deported from Australia and losing the world number one ranking to Russian Daniil Medvedev, this week said goodbye to Marian Vajda, one of his coaches for more than 15 years.
“Together we have achieved incredible things and I feel very grateful for the friendship we have and his dedication over the last 15 years. Even if he is no longer part of my team he will always be part of my family,” the Serbian said in the farewell.
After the French announcement, which unlocks the situation at Roland Garros, the US Open is emerging as the unknown for Djokovic, who has a good chance of playing Wimbledon.