Tennis superstar Novak Djokovic has revealed he’s still struggling to come to terms with the way he was ‘humiliated’ in Australia during his dramatic vaccination stand-off with the federal government in January.
The Serbian star’s comments have come to light after a shock loss to Jiri Vesely in the Dubai Tennis Championships that will see him lose his world No. 1 mantle to Daniil Medvedev in the coming days.
Djokovic spoke out against his treatment in a lengthy interview with Serbian TV, after declaring his dissatisfaction with the way his recent discussion with the BBC was presented.
“A very ugly image of me was created (in Australia),” Djokovic told Serbian show SportKlub.
“They humiliated me, if I may say so, on a world level. That is why it is important that I always have the opportunity to say something.
“If someone wants to ask me something, I will answer, I will repeat my answers because I have nothing else to add except what I said for the BBC.”
The 34-year-old suggested he endured much more than the public knew about ahead of his deportation by the Australian government, saying: “I can’t erase what happened from my memory. Everything is so fresh.
“There were other things that shook me that I can’t forget.”
However, he insisted he wasn’t willing to run away from any questions about his personal decisions.
“What you will certainly not hear or see from me is to run away from responsibility and the desire to answer someone’s question,” Djokovic said.
“I don’t hide anything, I haven’t run away from any questions.”
The 20-time grand slam champion went on to say he was treated differently to others in his same position ahead of this year’s Australian Open, while repeating his claim that he did absolutely nothing wrong, despite a number of accusations to the contrary.
“I’ve done everything that was asked of me. There is a belief that I was privileged in a way, that I (got the exemption) because of my stature,” he said.
“I will keep saying it and repeat it like a parrot, although the BBC has cut that part of the interview: 10 days before me, a Czech tennis player and Croatian coach (referring to Renata Voracova and Filip Serdarusic) entered Australia with the same medical exemption.
“She played a tournament, he coached his player no problem at all. Suddenly I come and there is a problem. Why? You tell me.
“The truth is the truth and my position is my position.
“I know that people will continue to criticise me because I decided to not get vaccinated and because I have attitudes that are incomprehensible to people.
“I respect everyone’s decision. I hope that people will respect my decision, if not understand it.”
Djokovic, who remains unvaccinated, also signalled his concerns about being permitted to compete at future tennis tournaments as he begins his hunt to match Rafael Nadal’s 21 grand slam titles.
“I don’t think I pose a danger to anyone. It’s my decision and I am aware of the consequences, because now not everything is in my hands,” Djokovic said.
“I don’t know if I will be able to play Indian Wells and some other tournaments.”
Novak loses top spot
Meanwhile, Djokovic will be overtaken as world No.1 by Daniil Medvedev next week after a shock loss to qualifier Jiri Vesely in the quarter-finals of the Dubai Tennis Championships.
Playing his first tournament of the year following his deportation from Australia, Djokovic had looked impressive in his first two matches.
But a combination of some unusual mistakes and an inspired southpaw opponent contributed to a 6-4 7-6 (7-4) defeat on Thursday that spells the end of Djokovic’s current two-year reign at the top of the rankings.
“Unfortunately, it wasn’t my day,” Djokovic told reporters.
“I congratulate Jiri. He played better. He just went for his shots. His serve was big. His whole game was big.
“I expected myself to play on a higher level, for sure. I mean, I can do better. But credit to Jiri.”
The Serbian has sat in top spot since overtaking Rafael Nadal on February 2, 2020, setting a new record last March for weeks at the top that currently stands at 361.
But next week that position will be taken by US Open champion Medvedev, who is through to the quarter-finals of the Mexican Open in Acapulco.
The Russian knew going into this week that a title would guarantee him top spot and, speaking at the weekend, Djokovic said: “He deserves to be No.1.
“Eventually it’s going to happen. If it happens this week, I’ll be the first one to congratulate him.”
Medvedev, who suffered an agonising five-set loss to Nadal in the final of the Australian Open last month, will become the first man other than Djokovic, Nadal, Roger Federer and Andy Murray to hold the world No.1 ranking since Andy Roddick in February 2004.
Czech Vesely is ranked down at 123 but has been playing well above that this week, and the 28-year-old is the lowest-ranked player to beat Djokovic for almost four years.
“It’s an amazing feeling. I never really thought I would have a chance against Novak,” Vesely said.
“He is one of the greatest of all time.
“It is great for tennis to have someone new at world number one. Novak is such a champion, he has been number one for 361 weeks, but tennis needs new world number ones and there is a new generation coming up.”
Djokovic retrieved an early break but Vesely, who won their only previous meeting in Monte Carlo six years ago, pressured the top seed’s serve again in the seventh game and held his nerve to take the first set.
He broke Djokovic for a third time in the seventh game of the second set and, although he was unable to serve out the victory, Vesely claimed the tiebreak to secure a famous win.
Djokovic admitted he was still trying to find his rhythm. “The more matches I play, the more confident I will be, the more comfortable I’ll be feeling on the court,” the 34-year-old said.
In the semi-finals, Vesely will play Canadian Denis Shapovalov, who defeated Ricardas Berankis 7-6 (7-4) 6-3.
The other last-four match will feature Andrey Rublev, who came from a set down to beat American Mackenzie McDonald 2-6 6-3 6-1 against Hubert Hurkacz, who earned a notable 6-3 6-3 triumph over rising Italian Jannik Sinner.
– With AAP