'He Probably Won't Play': Djokovic's Dad Accuses Australian Open of 'Blackmail' Over Vaccine Mandate
09:25 GMT 29.11.2021 (Updated: 11:43 GMT 10.12.2022)
The 20-time Grand Slam champion - Novak Djokovic - is not the only big name in the tennis world who has made his apprehensions about getting vaccinated against the coronavirus public. French Open finalist and Greek star Stefanos Tsitsipas also irked his country's health authorities after refusing to get jabbed a few months ago.
Defending champion Novak Djokovic's father has slammed the Australian Open's organisers for making vaccination compulsory for participating players in the tournament.
Srdjan Djokovic accused the tournament authorities of "blackmail" as his son is yet to reveal his vaccination status despite repeated questions from the media.
The elder Djokovic hinted that the reigning Wimbledon champion might even skip the event due to the vaccine mandate.
"Under these blackmails and conditions, he probably won't play", Djokovic told Serbian media. "I wouldn't do that, and he's my son, so you figure out for yourself if he is going to play or not".
Djokovic has often spoken about the freedom of choice as he remained non-committal about vaccination, despite contracting the virus last year.
"The freedom of choice is essential for everyone, whether it's me or somebody else", Djokovic said earlier this month. "Doesn't really matter whether it's vaccination or anything else in life. You should have the freedom to choose. In this particular case, what you want to put in your body".
According to the rules of the state of Victoria, whose capital city Melbourne will host the competition early next year, a player should be fully vaccinated to participate in the first Grand Slam of the year.
Even though there have been concerns over the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus, tournament director Craig Tiley has said that the event will be held as planned.
Last week, Tiley also claimed that 95 percent of professional tennis players would be vaccinated well before the tournament begins in January, though he didn't have any definitive answer on Djokovic.
But Tiley was hopeful that Djokovic would change his mind after realising that he could become the first man to win 10 Australian Opens.
"Novak has won nine Australian Opens, I'm sure he wants to get to 10", the Australian Open boss concluded. "He's on 20 Grand Slam titles as is Rafa Nadal, who is coming, and Roger Federer. One of them is going to surpass the other and I don't think Novak would want to leave that...to someone else".