The world's top-ranked men's tennis player, Novak Djokovic, is unwilling to say if he will consider taking the Covid-19 vaccine jab, with the Serb saying that "liberty and freedom of choice" must come first.
The Serbian ace has courted controversy with his vaccine stance in the past, drawing heavy fire from critics for his involvement in organizing last summer's Adria Tour which saw a spate of players, including Djokovic himself, test positive for Covid-19 amid heavily-criticized health and safety protocols.
Djokovic, winner of 18 Grand Slams, is currently in his home country for the Serbia Open – a tournament directed by his brother Djordje Djokovic – where some players have been offered the coronavirus vaccine due to an overabundance of extra jabs in available in the region, but Djokovic has refused to be drawn into the debate as to whether he will take one.
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"It is a very sensitive subject," said Djokovic. "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 who want to get vaccinated and people who don't want to get vaccinated."
Djokovic's non-committal stance about the vaccine comes in opposition to the recommendation of most health professionals across the globe, but the vaccine rollout has led to caution in some quarters related to some potential side-effects.
An increased risk of developing blood clots has been noted in at least one of the available vaccines, though proponents of the jab are keen to point out that the dangers of not receiving a shot far outweighs any risk in taking it.
"The only thing I’m asking is for people to respect my decision to keep the decision to myself and that’s it," Djokovic added.
"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."
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However, one aspect of the vaccine drive that Djokovic admits that he doesn't support is the concept of 'vaccine passports' which the ATP Tour says may be required for participation moving forward.
"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, I don’t think it will come to that," he said. "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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