NOVAK DJOKOVIC will be forced to miss the upcoming Masters events in Indian Wells and Miami as he remains unvaccinated.
Felix Auger-Aliassime has defended Novak Djokovic over his decision not to get vaccinated against Covid. The world No 1 finally returned to action this week in Dubai after being kicked out of the Australian Open but it is not known when he will next play with several countries requiring the jab to enter and compete.
Djokovic hit headlines for his unvaccinated status when he arrived in Australia for last month’s Aussie Open and had his visa cancelled twice, eventually being deported on the grounds that his presence could “excite anti-vax sentiment” in the country.
The 20-time Grand Slam champion finally started his season at this week’s Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, where he is a five-time former champion, but suffered a shock defeat to qualifier Jiri Vesely in the quarter-final.
It could now be a while until he is back in action, as he already admitted earlier in the week that he was unable to compete in the upcoming Indian Wells and Miami Masters 1000s thanks to American vaccination laws, saying: “As of today, no. I can’t go, can’t enter United States. As of today I’m not able to play.”
While the current world No 1 has been slammed for his decision not to get jabbed, Auger-Aliassime has now backed Djokovic amid criticism.
After the Serb made his return in Dubai, world No 9 Auger-Aliassime said it was good for tennis to have its top player back in action.
“I do think it’s good for the sport at the end of the day. I mean, he’s a great player to watch,” the Canadian told Eurosport.
“And as long as he’s playing, it’s good for a sport that he steps on the court and competes with all of us. That is good for the sport.”
The recent Rotterdam champion didn’t shy away from his views on Djokovic’s vaccination status, saying the 34-year-old could make his own choices.
“As for the vaccination, I think he really explained it well,” he admitted.
“At the end he is not the only one, everybody’s free to do whatever they want and we need to respect that; we for sure know people either in our family sometimes or in our group of friends or circle that are not, they don’t want to get the vaccine.”
Auger-Aliassime also praised Djokovic for accepting a limited schedule as a result of his vaccination beliefs.
He added: “I think he really accepts what comes with it and I think that’s correct.
“You have to be free in the world to do what you want and accept what comes with it. And for me, that’s totally fine.”
Djokovic recently gave his first in-depth interview since the Australia fiasco, admitting he was happy to sacrifice playing in tournaments like Wimbledon and the French Open if they required vaccination.
“Yes, that is the price that I’m willing to pay. Because the principles of decision making on my body are more important than any title or anything else,” he told the BBC.
The 86-time title winner also distanced himself from anti-vax claims as he explained he wasn’t against the jab and personally didn’t want it.
“I was never against vaccination. I understand that globally, everyone is trying to put a big effort into handling this virus and seeing, hopefully, an end soon to this virus,” he said.