It ‘Stays With You’: Novak Djokovic Back In Australia After Dramatic Detention, Deportation Over Vaccine

Tennis great Novak Djokovic is back in Australia, almost a year after he was dramatically detained and deported from the country over his vaccination status, rendering him unable to defend his Australian Open title.

Djokovic, who said he had already recovered from the virus, chose not to get vaccinated against COVID, leading to the incident in Australia. He was later barred from competing in the U.S. Open over a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) rule related to the vaccine.

“It’s great to be back in Australia,” the 35-year-old said Thursday, according to the New York Post. “It’s a country where I’ve had tremendous success in my career, particularly in Melbourne. It’s by far my most successful Grand Slam. I’m hoping that everything is going to be positive. Obviously (fan reaction) is not something that I can predict.”

Djokovic is back in the country ahead of the Australian Open, slated for January 16.

“I’ll do my best to play good tennis and bring good emotions and good feelings to the crowd,” he said.

“Obviously what happened 12 months ago was not easy for me,” the athlete continued, “for my family, team, anybody who is close to me. It’s obviously disappointing to leave the country like that.”

“You can’t forget those events,” he said. “It’s one of these things that stays with you for I guess the rest of your life. It’s something that I’ve never experienced before and hopefully never again. But it is a valuable life experience for me and something that as I said will stay there, but I have to move on.”

Back in February, the three-time U.S. Open champion told the BBC he was willing to sacrifice championships for these beliefs.

“That is the price that I’m willing to pay,” Djokovic said about potentially missed tournaments over the vaccine requirement. “Because the principles of decision making on my body are more important than any title or anything else. I’m trying to be in tune with my body as much as I possibly can.”

“I was never against vaccination,” he continued, “but I’ve always supported the freedom to choose what you put in your body.”

Djokovic earlier in the year noted that he had already recovered from the virus. “I had COVID twice, I had COVID in June 2020 and I had COVID recently in — I was tested positive — PCR — 16th of December 2021,” he said.

Related: ‘One Of The Fittest People On The Planet’: Journo Blasts U.S. For Barring Novak Djokovic From Open

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