Djokovic wife takes on journo after ‘anti-vax poster boy’ remark


Novak Djokovic won Wimbledon on Sunday, but is set to be barred from the next Grand Slam in New York

Novak Djokovic’s wife Jelena has launched a fierce defense of her husband and his vaccine stance after a tennis journalist accused the Serbian star of being an “anti-vax poster boy.”

Djokovic was crowned Wimbledon champion for a seventh time on Sunday as he overcame Australia’s Nick Kyrgios in a four-set battle.

The title was a 21st Grand Slam for Djokovic and puts him just one behind Rafael Nadal in their tussle for a record all-time tally.

But the appearance at the All England Club could be the last time Djokovic is seen at a Grand Slam until May of next year.

American entry rules on unvaccinated foreigners seem set to prevent the 35-year-old from being allowed into the country to compete at the US Open in August and September.

Djokovic’s deportation from Australia earlier this year could also mean he is barred from playing at the Grand Slam in Melbourne for up to three years. That would make the 2023 French Open the next time he lines up for a major.

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Djokovic was a longtime world number one but has dropped down the ratings. © Clive Brunskill / Getty Images
Djokovic suffers 4-year low despite Wimbledon triumph

Commenting after Djokovic prevailed at Wimbledon, tennis writer Ben Rothenberg, who has featured on the pages of the New York Times, USA Today, and elsewhere, tweeted: “Unless there is a swift change in US immigration law, Wimbledon will be Djokovic’s last Grand Slam event of the year.

“US requires vaccination for foreigners to enter, and Djokovic has firmly said he has ruled out getting vaccinated, entrenching himself as an anti-vax posterboy.”

It was the concluding comment which appeared to enrage Jelena Djokovic, who fired back in the replies: “Excuse me. Just making sure that it is noted that YOU tagged him as antivax poster boy for whatever reason you have. He simply responded what HIS body choice is.”

Rothenberg, who has been a frequent critic of Djokovic, responded: “I understand that it’s his choice.

“But I also am saying that his decision to be so firmly against the vaccines that it limits his ability to play tournaments has made him, unwittingly or not, into a huge icon of the anti-vax movement. I saw this very clearly during the Australian Open.”

The Djokovics shared an emotional moment following Novak’s latest Wimbledon win. © Steven Paston / PA Images via Getty Images

Jelena, who had been in the stands and Wimbledon and shared a passionate kiss with her husband after his victory, fired back: “You are creating a very judgmental narrative that fits your agenda.

“He is simply choosing what’s best for his body. If he is not playing because of making that choice, he is fine with it.”

Rothenberg still couldn’t let it lie, sniping: “I can accept judgmental.

“I believe every citizen, especially public figures, had a duty to act responsibly with public health actions and messaging during the pandemic, and as someone who has covered Novak as the influential champion he is, he repeatedly disappointed me deeply.”

Jelena then suggested that Rothenberg simply had it in for her husband.

“Thank you for sharing your beliefs. I hope you don’t get judged for them. Or become a poster boy for hatred and bullying. You never know,” she replied.

“You are also influential figure, please don’t continuously disappoint. Unless that’s your role.”

Speaking after his Wimbledon triumph – his fourth in a row at the All England Club – Djokovic said he had no plans to get vaccinated against Covid-19 simply in order to be able to play in the US.

“I’m not vaccinated and I’m not planning to get vaccinated so the only good news I can have is them removing the mandated green vaccine card or whatever you call it to enter United States or exemption,” said Djokovic.

US tennis icon John McEnroe implored US politicians to allow Djokovic into the country, calling the situation “ridiculous.”

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John McEnroe told the authorities to let the unvaccinated Novak Djokovic into the country. © Shi Tang / Getty Images
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Djokovic has insisted he is not an anti-vaxxer, but simply advocates freedom of choice over what people put into their bodies.

“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,” Djokovic told the BBC earlier this year.

“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.”

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