Novak Djokovic recently made headlines when he said he wasn't sure he would support mandatory COVID-19 vaccination for players when tennis resumes. And now Marion Bartoli has joined in the criticism of the World No. 1, saying he should 'think about humanity' before making such comments.
Novak Djokovic has been a rather controversial figure in tennis for the better part of the last two decades. Few players have ever divided fan opinion as much as Djokovic in his 17-year professional career.
Whether it is due to his on-court swagger coupled with occasional angry outbursts, or his very active involvement in politics as the president of the ATP Tour Players Council, the Serb has regularly run into hot water with the media. Djokovic has also made news for his "live, laugh, love" personality that matches that of a spiritual or life-hack "guru" more than that of a professional tennis player.
Djokovic's comments on the coronavirus vaccine were condemned by fans and players alike, and by the sporting world in general. Many notable personalities, while respectful towards Djokovic's personal beliefs, criticized him for advocating and popularizing misconceptions on vaccinations - especially given the influence he wields and the impact that his words create.
Retired tennis player and former Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli, while speaking on the latest edition of the 'Tennis Majors' podcast, didn't hold back in her disapproval of Djokovic's comments. Bartoli was joined in the conversation by active ATP player Noah Rubin, who added that Djokovic should be careful about how he influences other people's lives.
Novak Djokovic should put aside personal convictions for the common good of the community: Bartoli
The former World No. 7 did not mince her words while responding to Djokovic's anti-vaccination stance.
"You should think about humanity and the rest of your mates on the circuit. There are times in life when certain personal convictions need to be put aside for the common good of the community," Bartoli declared.
World No. 225 American Noah Rubin, who launched the website 'Behind the Racquet' last year, readily agreed with Bartoli. Rubin brought particular attention to Djokovic's suggestion that the choice of vaccination should be left to the personal discretion of players.
"Everyone can have the beliefs they have, but this should not be used to influence the lives of others. Tennis is a very large circuit. Will I be vaccinated and share a bathroom with someone who has chosen not to be vaccinated? It's a complicated thing," Rubin said.
Rafael Nadal among those questioning Novak Djokovic's anti-vaccination stand
Marion Bartoli and Noah Rubin are not the only prominent figures in the tennis community to have expressed their disagreement with Novak Djokovic on this issue. World No. 2 and 19-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal had recently said that while people should be free to make their own choices, all players will have to comply if tennis officials make vaccination compulsory.
Nadal added, "Then Djokovic will have to be vaccinated if he wants to keep playing tennis at the top level."
Djokovic's comments had invited criticism not only from the tennis community, but also from the scientific community - most notably from his native Serbia. Dr. Predrag Kon, an epidemiologist who is part of the Serbian government's efforts to combat the virus, had criticized Djokovic for creating "misconceptions" with his remarks. Kon had further advised Djokovic to avoid answering questions about vaccinations because he has a "huge impact".
Djokovic has somewhat backtracked on his statement since, but he maintains his stance on having the right to choose "what's best for his body". Speaking to The New York Times, the 17-time Grand Slam champion said he's keeping an open mind and will continue to research more on the topic.
We are still far away from a globally accessible vaccination against COVID-19 and from tennis to returning in our lives. But it will be interesting to see what happens when the tour does resume normal service, especially in light of Djokovic's comments.