Novak Djokovic says he does not want to take any sides in the COVID vaccination debate, but he wants 'freedom of choice' to be respected.
With vaccination roll-out now firmly underway following a year battling the coronavirus pandemic, the question about what role it can have to play in tennis has become more prevalent.
That has resulted in something of a divide emerging between the players, with some very clear they do not trust the vaccines and do not want them, and others, such as Rafael Nadal, declaring them 'the only way' for tennis to emerge from the pandemic.
Djokovic, though, says he respects the opinions of both sides, and the only opinion he is willing to commit to publicly is that he believes all players, and all people, should have their right to decide for themselves respected.
When asked by the press if he plans on taking a vaccine, Djokovic said: “It is a very sensitive subject.
“A lot of people want to go back to their normal life, whatever that was, and trying to avoid infecting anyone or getting infected themselves, I understand that, it’s a responsibility.
“But when it comes to vaccinations, I’ve always been a proponent of liberty and freedom of choice.
"I think this is something right now that I just don't want to get involved in. If I say yes or no, I would be drawn into one team, so to say, and then there's a lot of, I guess, conflict right now between people that want to get vaccinated and people who don't.
"The only thing I’m asking is for people to respect my decision to keep the decision to myself and that’s it.
“Whoever wants to get vaccinated can get vaccinated and I respect that, who doesn’t want to, doesn’t have to.
"I’m not a doctor, I’m not a virologist, to knowledgeably speak about this, but from what I’ve been seeing from outside there’s a lot of diversity and opinions on what needs to be done.
“Freedom of choice is what I’m advocating for. I will keep the decision as to whether I’m going to get vaccinated or not to myself, I think it’s an intimate decision and I don’t want to go into this game of pro and against vaccines.
"I just don't want to be labelled as someone who is against or who is for vaccines.
The ATP and WTA, meanwhile, have suggested they will be willing to offer incentives for players to take the vaccine, such as no longer subject them to restrictions during tournaments.
That is something Djokovic believes is difficult to enact, as it is the country who sets the rules, not the Tours, but one thing he is adamant he is against is making the vaccine compulsory before players are allowed to enter tournaments.
"There has been a lot of un-clarity, I would say, as to whether there’s going to be a compulsory mandatory vaccination in order to take part on the ATP Tour," he said.
"I don’t think it will come to that. I hope not, because I’ve always believed in freedom of choice.
"I hope that it doesn’t become compulsory. I can say that clearly right now, because I’m clearly against that.”
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