World No 1 Novak Djokovic is making a 'big mistake' in his stance against the Covid vaccine, according to his former coach Boris Becker.
Djokovic has spoken in the past about his opposition to the jab, and he has refused to disclose his vaccination status which had put his participation in the Australian Open in huge doubt – with it being mandatory to be fully jabbed ahead of the first Grand Slam of the. year.
But Djokovic took to Instagram on Tuesday to declare he had been given a medical exemption to compete in the Melbourne Slam, which didn't go down very well with tennis fans.
However, the Serb has endured a torrid few days with his visa having been revoked by border force officials upon his arrival in Melbourne.
The 34-year-old is now being held in an inner-north Melbourne hotel while he awaits a court challenge – which will be heard on Monday – to his visa cancellation. The hotel is usually used to house asylum seekers, and Serbia's foreign ministry has since urged the federal government to grant the world No 1 better accommodation.
Becker, a two-time champion of the Australian Open, forged a successful bond with Djokovic during their three years together as they won six major titles.
The German insists he remains close with the 20-time Grand Slam champion – but their views regarding Covid are very different.
"On this occasion I think he is making a big mistake in not getting vaccinated. It is one that threatens what remains of his career and his chance to cement himself as the greatest player of all time,” Becker said in his column for the Daily Mail .
"Four times I sat in his box as he won the Australian Open, so I am fully aware of his great strengths as an incredible competitor. I also think he has a great character that can easily be misunderstood.
"Yet these strengths can also be weaknesses. The same incredible determination which I saw win so many close matches can be a vulnerability with his stubbornness."
Becker is concerned that Djokovic's stance over the vaccine will hinder his playing career, particularly as the Serb is seeking to establish his legacy as the greatest male tennis player in history with a record-breaking 21st Grand Slam title triumph.
"He is incredibly strong-willed, with very firm beliefs. If he does not, then in 10 years he will look back on it and realise he made a mistake," Becker added.
"It is not just about Australia. The fact is that we are living in a different world and he is going to find it very hard to live the life of a professional tennis player travelling around without the vaccination.
"Those are the rules, whether one likes them or not, and you have to accept it. Maybe one day we will get back to a more normal situation, but at 34 he does not have much time left to pursue his goals.
"As someone fond of him, I know he will be suffering. He will be shocked at the treatment he is getting, in a bleak room with his meals shoved under the door. It will be all the more disconcerting because he loves playing in Australia and perhaps no stadium more than the Rod Laver Arena."
Australian Open qualifying begins on January 10, with the full tournament kicking off a week later and concluding on January 30.
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