Novak Djokovic has broken his silence after getting deported from Australia to say that he was never opposed to getting vaccinated against Covid-19, and that he should not be associated with the anti-vaccination movement.
In his first interview since he was detained in Melbourne in January, the world number one said he would rather miss out on future tennis competitions than be made to get jabbed.
It means he would be unable to defend his Wimbledon or French Open titles if the tournaments require mandatory vaccination for competitors.
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"I was never against vaccination," the 20-times Grand Slam winner told the BBC.
"But I've always supported the freedom to choose what you put in your body."
"The principles of decision making on my body are more important than any title or anything else. I'm trying to be in tune with my body as much as I possibly can," he added.
The 34-year-old Serbian national, who is unvaccinated, was deported from Australia last month after the government cancelled his visa amid controversy over his vaccination status.
His visa was cancelled on the grounds his presence in Australia may be a risk to health and be counterproductive for vaccine efforts, after the tennis star failed in his arguments for an exemption to compete in the Australian Open.
Djokovic addressed his deportation from Australia after some had suggested that it was convenient he had tested positive for Covid in mid-December.
The timing allowed him to be granted a medical exemption to attend the tournament.
Djokovic said: “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.
“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.
“I was really sad and disappointed with the way it all ended for me in Australia. It wasn’t easy.
Djokovic is set to return to action at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, which begins on February 21.
Entrants to Dubai do not need to be vaccinated against Covid-19 and it is a tournament Djokovic has won five times.