World number four Stefanos Tsitsipas said on Thursday that Novak Djokovic has been ‘playing by his own rules’ and has put his Grand Slam at risk, adding that the Australian Open defending champion has made vaccinated tennis players ‘look like fools’.
The star player from Serbia was on Thursday drawn to start his campaign in the Australian Open against compatriot Miomir Kecmanovic, the World No 78. However, there is uncertainty over his participation as Djokovic’s visa saga continues in Australia.
Djokovic, who had reached Australia for the year’s first Grand Slam with a certificate claiming exemption from vaccination as he had tested positive for Covid-19 in December, had his visa cancelled by the Australian government before a Federal Court in the country intervened to give him respite.
There were still doubts over his participation in the event and there was intense speculation on Thursday when the draw ceremony for the event was delayed for some time. However, the organisers went ahead with the formalities with the Serbian’s name being included in the draw.
“For sure, he’s been playing by his own rules and has been doing what not many players had the guts to do, especially after the ATP announced certain criteria for players to enter the country,” Greece’s Tsitsipas told WION.
“No one really thought they could come to Australia unvaccinated and not having to follow the protocols… it takes a lot of daring to do and putting the Grand Slam at risk, which I don’t think many players would do,” he added.
The ATP, which governs men’s tennis, has said 97 of the top 100 male players are vaccinated.
Notably, American world number 93 Tennys Sandgren had said earlier this month that he had pulled out of the Australian Open because of the vaccine mandate and he opted not to apply for a medical exemption.
Asked if Djokovic should defend his title at Melbourne Park next week, Tsitsipas said: “There are two ways to look at it. One way is that almost every single player is vaccinated and did what they had to do in order to come and perform and play in Australia.”
“On the other sense, it seems not everyone is playing by the rules…a very small (minority) chose to follow their own way, which kind of makes the majority look like fools,” he added.
Djokovic, the nine-time Australian Open winner, is hoping to become the most successful player in the Grand Slam by claiming his 21st men’s singles title in the Australian Open, which starts on January 17, breaking a tie for most titles with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.