Tennis Locals: A Brief History of Djokovic’s Anti-Science Beliefs Ahead of the 2022 Australian Open

Novak Djokovic was thrust into the international spotlight recently, and people who know nothing about tennis are forming opinions. The truth is, his relationship with COVID started long before Australia. Let us fill you in: 

Spring 2020: The Pandemic Takes Over

On April 19th, 2020, long before a COVID vaccine was even on the horizon, he was quoted as saying he “opposed” vaccinations. Read the full New York Times report.

In April 2020 with the pandemic in full gear, most people were staying at home. Despite the pressure to cancel the event, Djokovic hosted the Adria Tour. He was the organizer and face of the event. It was held with full crowds and players were maskless.

The players were even seen partying at nightclubs together. Who can forget the shirtless pics?

Djokovic and fellow tennis stars partied in a Belgrade nightclub on Sunday night, with some of the players taking their shirts off during the riotous evening

The Rest of 2020: Instagram Lives

Djokovic started holding questionable Instagram Live sessions where his beliefs around science continued to be questioned. In May, he had a conversation about changing the properties of food and water through positive energy, and he had a similar conversation in October 2020

Throughout the entire pandemic, the Australian government held the strictest COVID policies in the entire world. Citizens were on complete lockdown for significant amounts of time and their travel was limited, including a ban on inter-state travel. Many Australians reported missing funerals and other important family events. 

Djokovic continued his stance against vaccines, but no tournaments required vaccination at that time. He was able to continue touring the world as the number 1 tennis player in the world – scooping up nearly all the big trophies along the way. 

Fall 2021: Will He or Won’t He?

In the fall of 2021, it was announced that all entrants into the Australian Open had to be vaccinated or have a medical exemption, Djokovic was coy and played with the media for months leading up to the event. “We’ll see,” he said with a smirk in November 2021 when asked if he was planning to be in Australia. 

There were no significant developments or announcements through the holidays. Novak was seen hosting an event with children on December 16th, at a photoshoot on December 17th and again hitting tennis balls with kids outside on December 25th. 

January 2022: The Social Media Post that Changed Everything

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Novak Djokovic (@djokernole)

That all changed when on January 8th he posted on Instagram wishing everyone a Happy New Year – and then announcing he was granted “an exemption” to enter the Australian Open. He hopped on a plane and headed to Australia. 

While he was in the air, the news exploded in Australia. He immediately started trending in the country, and not in a good way. There was immediate pressure from the Australian population, who have followed the rules for nearly 2 years, to stop Novak from bending the rules. The reaction forced the government to step in and assure its citizens they would take a closer look at his information upon his arrival. 

What happened next is well documented: 

  • Djokovic was denied entry into the country over visa issues and the government saying his reasons didn’t pass the smell test (despite what Djokovic seemed to work out with Tennis Australia). 
  • He then won his appeal in court on a technicality: The Australian government told him that he’d have until 8:30 am to contact his attorneys and doctors to authenticate his exemption information. 
  • During this time, documents were leaked about Djokovic’s medical exemption. Most of it was very damaging and only raised more questions about his handling of the exemption. We break down that damaging information in our latest post. 
  • The Australian government was still free to refuse his entry again since they lost the appeal on due process and not the grounds of his visa. They did just that several days later, again putting Djokovic’s AO plans on hold. 
  • Finally, on the eve of the Australian Open, the ruling to deport Djokovic was upheld and he left the country within hours of the decision.

The entire situation spiraled out of control. But even after the days of back-and-forth between Novak and the government, the people in Australia still wanted him sent home. More than 70% of Australians were for him being deported.

There was clearly miscommunication between Tennis Australia, the players and the Australian government. What has remained as consistent as Djokovic’s reliable backhand: His anti-science takes from the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

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