Watch: Novak Djokovic's biographer explains the roots of the Serb's aversion towards modern medicine & vaccines

Novak Djokovic training ahead of the 2022 Australian Open
Novak Djokovic training ahead of the 2022 Australian Open

Novak Djokovic's biographer, Chris Bowers, recently shed some light on the roots of the Serb's aversion towards modern medicine - including vaccines - in a conversation with CNN.

Bowers penned the book "Novak Djokovic: A Biography" in 2017. For his book, he interacted with the Serb and his family on numerous occasions and was also given a great deal of input by Jelena Gencic - Djokovic's first tennis coach.

The 20-time Major champion is not an 'anti-vaxxer' as some believe him to be, even though he is unvaccinated against COVID-19. He has, however, voiced his opposition towards the COVID vaccine numerous times throughout the pandemic, citing how a vaccine for a constantly evolving virus cannot be deemed safe.

During his conversation on CNN, Bowers began by providing some backstory into Djokovic's modest upbringing. He revealed that the World No. 1 had a stroke of luck at the age of five when a tennis clinic decided to visit his town.

"He is a man from a fairly modest background," Chris Bowers began. "At the age of five he noticed a tennis clinic came to the town in the mountains on the Serbia-Kosovo border where his parents were running a pizzeria."

It was there that the Serb came across his first coach, Jelena Gencic, who shaped his early career in tennis. Many believe that she was the first to recognize that Djokovic was destined for greatness.

"He stuck his face to the fence," Bowers continued. "The coach noticed how keen he was, (and) taught him how to play tennis. So her role is more than that, she is a remarkable woman, called Jelena Gencic who was his coach from the ages of five to twelve. But she could see or claim she could see that he would be an International figure and therefore taught him very much to be a citizen of the world."

Bowers revealed that Gencic soon realized that Djokovic had a "number of allergies" and would often have a reaction to something as small as a wildflower. The biographer then recalled how the World No. 1 would often retire midway through his matches during the initial phase of his career.

Djokovic struggled with his stamina and had breathing issues for several years on tour. It was later discovered that he was allergic to gluten. When the Serb fixed his diet, his problems gradually began to dissipate.

"Among the problems she had to deal with was a number of allergies he had, he would often sort of start sneezing because of a wildflower by the courtside. And if you follow the early part of his playing career, he would frequently retire hurt from matches."

Bowers explained that the 34-year-old is constantly looking for natural remedies given his aversion to modern medicine. He observed that Djokovic initially declined to opt for surgery after seriously injuring his elbow in 2017.

Although eventually agreeing to surgery and undergoing a procedure in 2018, Djokovic's biographer said the Serb's "natural instincts" are always to let nature take its course.

"Now, he has become a searcher, looking for alternative ways of doing things and he is a great believer in the power of the body to heal itself and that's why, you know, it's not just that he's against the vaccine - when he had a serious elbow injury that caused him to sit out of the second half of the 2017 season, he resolutely refused to have an operation on the elbow."
"Eventually he came back in 2018, the problem was still there, and so he went and had the procedure. It was against his better judgement even though it led to improvements. His natural instinct is always to say - 'the natural way is the right way for me'."

“I am not against vaccination of any kind" - Novak Djokovic during the 2020 US Open

Novak Djokovic opened up about his stance on vaccinations during the 2020 US Open. He then stated that he was not against vaccinations, but was concerned about getting jabbed against COVID-19 since the virus was difficult to predict.

“I am not against vaccination of any kind, because who am I to speak about vaccines when there are people that have been in the field of medicine and saving lives around the world? I’m sure that there are vaccines that have little side effects that have helped people and helped stop the spread of some infections around the world,” the Serb said during the 2020 US Open.
“How are we expecting that to solve our problem when this coronavirus is mutating regularly from what I understand?” he asked.

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Edited by Nihal Taraporvala
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