Tennis superstar Novak Djokovic has opened up on his struggles dealing with the fallout of the media’s coverage of his Australian deportation in 2022, claiming the media turned him into “the villain of the world”.
Often labelled “No-Vax” Djokovic, the sportsman’s refusal to vaccinate against Covid-19 saw his Australian visa cancelled ahead of the January 2022 Australian Open, and the Serbian was promptly deported from the country.
Despite his return to the country to compete in the Australian Open, the sportsman told 9News the saga put him and his brand in a “terrible position” and had a significant effect on his mental health, causing him to lay low to wait for the storm to blow over once he returned to Serbia.
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“All of a sudden I became the villain of the world which is obviously a terrible position to be in as an athlete,” Djokovic said.
“There was not a great narrative in the media about me at all.
“I stayed for several weeks at home, didn’t really go around too much. I just hoped that the situation would calm down, which it did, but the traces stayed there.
“The traces followed for several months after and I didn’t know it was going to affect my game and the way I play. It was not easy for me mentally to regroup and restart again.
“The traces of what was happening, I could still feel it. In every press conference I was asked at least one or two questions about Australia and what happened. Even if I wanted to move on, people were reminding me of that.”
The tennis star defended his decisions which lead to his deportation, saying the media’s narrative wasn’t accurate and that “a lot of people still have the wrong idea about what happened”.
“There were two or three more people that came into Australia 10 days before I did with exactly the same exemption that I had and I was just following the rules,” Djokovic defended.
“My exemption was verified by an independent body and panel of doctors, so it was unknown who was giving the request, and I came in with all the valid papers.
“Everything got out of hand and then I was labelled as this or that. It was so big in the media that I just could not fight that, I didn’t even want to get into that.
“I obviously wanted to stay here and play tennis, but at some point, with the amount of craziness going around I just wanted to get out and go back home.”
The Federal Government overturned Djokovic’s three-year ban from Australia late last year in November, opening the door for the tennis icon to compete at the upcoming Australian Open on January 16, 2023.