Novak Djokovic may skip Australian Open to avoid mandatory immunization requirement

By Andy Hilboldt

Novak Djokovic faces a dilemma that could have serious consequences in the weeks leading up to the Australian Open: Will he fight the Australian Open’s mandatory immunization requirement, or allow himself to skip the tournament and risk more recurring injuries?

Djokovic’s father, Jelena, a retired nurse, revealed his decision-making process in an interview with TennisGuru.com, which the website obtained an audio snippet of on Wednesday.

Jelena spoke about the extended family vacation they had planned to take in Ibiza after Djokovic’s European Premier Tennis League match against Andy Murray in Birmingham on Friday.

“We were going to go by boat but now the question is whether he’s going to go or not,” Jelena said. “It’s better just to go to recovery, to get fresh and hopefully make a change.”

That’s where Djokovic’s decision-making process comes into play.

“You have to have that freshness,” Jelena said. “Maybe even play a limited amount of tournaments to recover.”

Djokovic sustained injuries to both ankles during the Italian Open in May, and it seemed at the time that he would keep playing in hopes of winning the tournament at the end of the month. He is still expected to participate at the French Open later this month, although the father’s interview illustrates Djokovic’s apprehension.

“[The decision] isn’t easy,” Jelena said. “Novak makes that decision.”

The Australian Open is scheduled for Jan. 15-28, and Djokovic would not be required to attend a tournament if he doesn’t agree to the mandatory immunization requirement that applies to all players at the event.

Djokovic, ranked third in the world, is especially sensitive to chronic back issues. He underwent a long recovery process after a 2016 Wimbledon finals loss to Roger Federer, which would eventually be viewed as one of the turning points in his career.

“We have those stories and real facts about back pain,” Jelena said. “If it’s something that can make you not want to compete and recover and feel better and go on the court, we have to adjust.

“Whatever can happen, Novak will be an athlete, regardless,” Jelena said. “That’s something we have to consider.”

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