Novak Djokovic is the number one tennis player in the world at 36 years old, tallying 24 Grand Slam titles over his illustrious career, which does not seem to be coming to an end anytime soon.
Through all the success though, Djokovic was cast as a villain in recent years for his decision not to get the COVID-19 vaccination.
Despite the backlash, he has remained steadfast in his belief that he does not have to get the vaccine. In September, Djokovic spoke with tennis great John McEnroe about his stance, though it was not the mindset people believed he had.
Djokovic said he was not “anti-vax,” but rather “pro-freedom to choose” whether a person wants to get the vaccine or not.
During a “60 Minutes” interview that aired on Sunday, Djokovic reiterated those comments.
“People tried to declare me as an anti-vax [person]. I’m not anti-vax, nor am I pro-vax. I’m pro-freedom to choose,” he said once more.
Controversy spread globally for Djokovic when the Serbian native wanted to defend his Australian Open title in 2022. However, despite being granted a medical exemption to enter Australia without the COVID-19 vaccination, Immigration Minster Alex Hawke revoked Djokovic’s visa.
“I was basically declared as a villain of the world,” Djokovic told “60 Minutes.” “I had, basically, most of the world against me. I had that kind of experience on the tennis court with crowds that were maybe not cheering me on. But I never had this particular experience before in my life.
“I got the exemption, I got the permission to come into the country. So, of course, it escalated to the highest of highest levels globally.”
Djokovic would launch a case to save his visa and his ability to compete in the Australian Open. Supporters of Australia’s decision to cancel his visa, as well as those believing Djokovic had the right to play, stood outside a courtroom where three judges made the decision to deport Djokovic.
He said at the time he was “extremely disappointed” with the decision, though he accepted the ruling and went on a flight to Dubai. This process lasted 10 days prior to the start of the tournament.
Djokovic told McEnroe in September he would forgo winning more Grand Slam titles if the vaccine is required to participate in the tournament.
He won his 24th Grand Slam at the 2023 U.S. Open over Daniil Medvedev in straight sets after previously defeating budding American star Ben Shelton in the semifinals.