Waleed Aly said Novak Djokovic’s defiant interview where he promised to remain unvaccinated made him ‘respect’ the Serbian tennis legend.
The world number one opened up for first time about why he decided to not get the jab and says he’s willing to pay the price of missing future grand slams in a tell-all sitdown with the BBC.
Djokovic said he was ‘prepared’ to give up tens of millions of dollars and the chance to become the sport’s greatest ever champion to stick true to his principles – something that impressed the co-host of The Project.
‘Watching that clip actually made me respect him. He’s prepared to bear the cost of his stance,’ Aly said.
‘Yeah, he only has to survive on his $220million,’ co-host Carrie Bickmore responded.
Novak Djokovic (pictured) has opened up for first time about his vaccination status in a revealing interview with the BBC
The Project co-host Peter Helliar said he was ‘surprised’ Djokovic did the interview with the BBC rather than Joe Rogan.
‘I really thought he’s take Novovax,’ Bickmore said. ‘It’s actually almost named after him.’
The 20-time grand slam champion was deported from Australia a day before the Melbourne tournament began after immigration minister Alex Hawke used his discretionary powers to cancel his visa.
Waleed Aly said Novak Djokovic’s defiant interview where he promised to remain unvaccinated made him ‘respect’ the Serbian tennis legend
The tennis star confirmed for the first time that he hasn’t had a Covid jab and responded to speculation about his medical exemption to enter Australia.
‘One of the consequences of my decision was not going to Australia and I was prepared not to go,’ he said.
‘I understand not being vaccinated today, I’m unable to travel to most of the tournaments at the moment.
‘That is the price that I’m willing to pay.’
Djokovic understands the consequences of his decision and says he was prepared to miss this year’s Australian Open, where he has won the title nine times.
He said he was motivated to fight mandates, rather than the idea of the vaccine itself, admitting he has been vaccinated for different conditions in the past.
‘I was never against vaccination but I’ve always supported the freedom to choose what you put in your body,’ Djokovic said.
‘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.’
Novak Djokovic (pictured with wife Jelena) is prepared to miss this year’s French Open and Wimbledon grand slams if vaccination is a requirement
Djokovic also addressed the furore over his Australian visa saga and the events leading up to his arrival in Melbourne last month.
He was planning not to go but was then told he could possibly get a medical exemption after he tested positive to the virus a month before the tournament.
He also hit back at speculation the sequence of the events following his Covid test result don’t stack up.
‘I understand that there is a lot of criticism, and I understand that people come out with different theories on how lucky I was or how convenient it is,’ Djokovic said.
‘But no-one is lucky and convenient of getting Covid. Millions of people have and are still struggling with Covid around the world.
‘So I take this very seriously, I really don’t like someone thinking I’ve misused something or in my own favour, in order to, you know, get a positive PCR test and eventually go to Australia.’
Novak Djokovic returned home to Serbia after he was deported from Australia (pictured on boarding a plane on his way home)
Half of Djokovic’s 11-day stint in Melbourne was spent in immigration detention before he was deported.
He insists an error in one of his travel documents to enter Australia was unintentional.
‘I was really sad and disappointed with the way it all ended for me in Australia,’ he added. ‘It wasn’t easy,’ Djokovic said.
He also had a message for the Australian public, in particularly Melburnians who have spent more time in lockdown than any other city in the world during the pandemic.
‘Australians have been through one of the most severe lockdowns since the start of the pandemic,’ he said.
‘I can only imagine how hard it was for Australians. I sympathise and empathise with all the people and I understand there has been lots of frustrations from Australian people towards me and the entire situation and the way it was dealt with.’
‘I would like to say I always follow the rules. I was ready not to go Australia, as much as I love the country.’