Djokovic's Vow To Miss Tournaments Poses Risk For His Grand Slam Record Quest

The 20-time Grand Slam champion has said he is willing to sacrifice future trophies as he will not be forced into getting Covid vaccine
16:00, 15 Feb 2022

We may be in February and the Australian Open is already done and dusted but the Novak Djokovic Covid vaccination saga is still rumbling on. It has taken another twist as the Serbian star has revealed he will not play in future tournaments if he is forced into receiving a vaccine against the menacing virus that has plagued the world for two years.

There was uproar from his loyal supporters after he was deported from Australia as a result of his vaccination status which thwarted him from going for a record 21st Grand Slam title and a fourth consecutive triumph in Melbourne. As we already know, his fellow great of this generation, Rafael Nadal claimed this year’s title in style, to edge himself in front of Djokovic and Roger Federer as the sole record holder for most Grand Slam titles with 21. So when Djokovic announced yesterday in an interview with the BBC that he would rather miss more tournaments than get the vaccination, sacrificing future trophies, it came as a surprise. He is still in a great position physically to eclipse his rivals and establish himself as the greatest tennis player of all time. But Djokovic would rather give up future success rather than be forced into getting the vaccine as he said: “That is the price I’m willing to pay.” 

We have seen just how long COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on the world and it does not look like it will disappear anytime soon. The fact that the Serbian is content to miss the other major tournaments this year is quite interesting. He has already missed out on his favourite arena in Melbourne, where he has won an astonishing nine titles. If he were to miss out on the other Grand Slams this year, including the French Open and Wimbledon, people will start to wonder how long it will be until they see him return to court.

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Having now fallen behind Nadal in the quest for tennis supremacy, many were expecting a fire to be ignited inside Djokovic. That he would be back in the frame competing for championships and maybe abandon his stubborn attitude in refusing to accept a Covid vaccine. In his defence, it should always remain a personal choice, but it is totally understandable for the relevant authorities to push to only welcome vaccinated players. This will be the safest way for the competitions to run smoothly. With this scenario, Djokovic will continue to alienate himself from the sport he loves and the millions he has entertained over the years and the longer he waits to be able to compete without any complications, he could be waiting so long that his return will not be the moment that he would be waiting for. 

What keeps these athletes at the peak of their game is playing regularly, particularly in the major tournaments and without the traditional challenges that the Grand Slams provide, he could potentially jeopardise the significant success and momentum he has generated over the last few years. 

We have been blessed to witness Djokovic, Nadal and Federer compete at the same time and it is very hard to separate them because of the great things they have accomplished. The only way for one of them to shine ahead of their rivals would be to finish their career with more Grand Slam titles. Nadal is already one clear of Djokovic, and the longer his absence continues from the major championships, there is a growing risk that he will not be able to catch up and eclipse his Spanish rival and become the undisputed greatest tennis player in history.

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