Johannesburg - Novak Djokovic has many sides to him, most prominent is the Serbian’s incredible tennis ability that has seen him win 20 men’s Grand Slam tennis titles, but he’s also a wilful ignoramus.
His continued anti-vaccination stance, hosting a tournament last year in Serbia and Croatia during Covid-19 lockdowns in those countries and using his public platform to spread ludicrous theories like how through thought alone he can “turn the most toxic food or the most polluted water into the most healing water”.
Yes, he really did this too - as can be seen in the video below ...
Let's not lose sight of how wildly anti-science Djokovic has publicly been for years.— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) January 5, 2022
Here he was last year preaching about how you can change water with emotion.
Naive, but maybe these real consequences today can be a reality check for his nonsense?pic.twitter.com/LyJbJTvb9W
It’s due to beliefs like that, that the 34-year-old Djokovic thinks the rules do not apply to him. Understandably, the Australian Open - which begins with the main draw on Monday in Melbourne - requires all players to be fully vaccinated in order to compete. Non-Australian citizens are also required to be fully vaccinated before entering the country.
Djokovic, despite his perfect health and imperfect attitude, is aiming to compete without being fully vaccinated on a medical exemption. Perhaps he genuinely believes the vaccine may harm his perfect immune system.
Currently, it’s not clear if Djokovic will be allowed to play. On Monday, the decision to cancel his visa by authorities was overturned, and Djokovic has since released a statement saying his travel declaration form was filled out incorrectly by his support team - which did not explicitly detail his travel movements over the 14 days before arriving in Australia.
The penalty for such a mistake is a fine of R73 830 - which would mean nothing to Djokovic - but what would is that it could also mean his visa is cancelled.
Naturally, Djokovic claimed ignorance on filling out his form incorrectly - that would likely lead to any other person being immediately deported and fined.
"This was human error and certainly not deliberate," Djokovic said. "We are living in challenging times in a global pandemic and sometimes this mistakes can occur."
As a result, there are three camps on the Djokovic issue.
There are those who want him to be denied the opportunity to compete in the Australian Open, and those who want him to play and see how he performs in front of an angry Aussie crowd. That could indeed be a sight to behold.
Of course, there are also alarming numbers of Djokovic supporters who want him to play to prove he can still be the best despite the (self-inflicted) hurdles he has faced in trying to play the first Grand Slam event of the year.
One social media user joked, in the hope that he would play: “Or someone in the crowd runs onto the court and jabs him. Sort of like Monica Seles but with a needle.”
Djokovic too, will have gained many supporters who are anti-vaxxers. And while the world continues to grapple with the Covid-19 pandemic, a public figure like Djokovic who campaigns against the jab will have the effect of influencing many people who are still undecided about vaccination.
A country like South Africa, for example, as of January 9 had just 27.2% of the population fully vaccinated. Australia, in contrast, already have 77.6% of the population fully vaccinated.
Djokovic has a duty as a public figure, and supremely talented tennis player with a huge following, to use his influence and power to do his bit in the quest to end the Covid-19 pandemic.
But don’t hold your breath, that probably won’t happen anytime soon. Until then, Djokovic will continue to win tennis tournaments, likely Grand Slams too, but his legacy will be tainted as an anti-vax dullard.