In a stunning twist, after initially being cleared to play with a medical exemption, the world number one player and nine-time Australian Open champion had his visa revoked at Melbourne Airport, wrecking the Serbian’s chances of winning a fourth straight title.
Here’s a look at some of Djokovic’s statements on coronavirus which have drawn media attention – and perhaps raised eyebrows – since the pandemic began in 2020.
Resistance to coronavirus vaccine
In April 2020 while speaking with a group of Serbian players on a live Facebook chat, Djokovic expressed his concern over being able to travel and play if coronavirus vaccines became mandatory.
“Personally I am opposed to vaccination and I wouldn’t want to be forced by someone to take a vaccine in order to be able to travel,” he said.
“But if it becomes compulsory, what will happen? I will have to make a decision.
“I have my own thoughts about the matter, and whether those thoughts will change at some point, I don’t know.”
Like many people, he said he was keen to do his research and make an informed decision.
“I am no expert, but I do want to have an option to choose what’s best for my body,” he said.
“I am keeping an open mind, and I’ll continue to research on this topic because it is important and it will affect all of us.”
‘Taken out of context’
Djokovic, who has never publicly disclosed his coronavirus vaccination status, later spoke to the New York Times, where he attempted to add more depth to the reported comments.
“I see that the international media has taken that out of context a little bit, saying that I am completely against vaccines of any kind,” he said.
“My issue here with vaccines is if someone is forcing me to put something in my body. That I don’t want. For me that’s unacceptable.
“I am not against vaccination of any kind, because who am I to speak about vaccines when there are people that have been in the field of medicine and saving lives around the world?
“I’m sure that there are vaccines that have little side effects that have helped people and helped stop the spread of some infections around the world.”
Hope vaccine not mandatory for players
Speaking during the Serbia Open in May last year, Djokovic said he hoped vaccines would not become mandatory for players to compete at tournaments.
“I don’t think it’ll come to that. I hope not, because I’ve always believed in freedom of choice.
“And I will keep the decision as to whether I’m going to get vaccinated or not to myself.
“It’s an intimate decision, and I don’t want to go into this game of pro and against vaccines, which the media is unfortunately creating these days.
“I don’t want to be labelled as someone who is against or who is for vaccines. I’m not going to answer the question … and hope that everyone will respect that.”
Breaks news of his own Australian Open exemption
The Serbian superstar had refused to divulge his COVID-19 vaccination status and it was not known if he would be allowed to enter the country until he posted to his 9.7 million followers on Instagram that he was on his way.
“Happy New Year, everybody! Wishing you all health, love, and happiness in every present moment and may you feel love & respect towards all beings on this wonderful planet,” Djokovic wrote with a photo of him at an airport and bags of luggage.
“I’ve spent fantastic quality time with my loved ones over the break and today I’m heading Down Under with an exemption permission. Let’s go 2022!!”
Tennis Australia later released a statement confirming that Djokovic had been granted an exemption and that he would play at the the AO.
AO tournament director Craig Tiley said players must be fully vaccinated, unless there was a “genuine reason” why an exemption should be granted.
He said there had been no special treatment given to Djokovic, who was “one of a handful of people” given exemptions for the tennis tournament.
Thought and prayer can infuse water with healing properties
In a discussion with a self-styled wellness guru called Chervin Jafarieh, Djokovic made comments about the power of prayer and thinking which attracted attention.
“I’ve seen people and I know some people that through energetical transformation, through the power of prayer, through the power of gratitude, they manage to turn the most toxic food or the most polluted water, into the most healing water,” he said.
“Because water reacts and scientists have proven that molecules in the water react to our emotions to what is being said.”
Djokovic donates $25,000 to bushfire victims
While the Serbian star’s position on the coronavirus and vaccines may not meet everyone’s approval, it should be remembered he donated $25,000 to bushfire victims in 2020.
“Australia is such an amazing and welcoming country, and it feels like home for us at the start of each season,” Djokovic said at the time.
“To see the damage to wildlife and nature from the bushfires has been devastating.”