BORIS BECKER: Novak Djokovic is like family to me but he is making a BIG mistake in not getting vaccinated… it is a decision that threatens his chance to cement himself as the GREATEST player of all time
- I am so close to Novak Djokovic that I would almost regard him as family
- I am aware of his strength having sat in his box for four Australian Open wins
- But his decision to not get vaccinated is a decision that threatens his career
- I would urge him to get vaccinated but whether he would listen is another matter
As his former coach I am so close to Novak Djokovic that I would almost regard him as family — but like in all families you sometimes have disagreements.
And 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.
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.
As a former coach I am so close to Novak Djokovic that I would almost regard him as family
And on this occasion I think he is making a big mistake in not getting vaccinated
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.
When he arrived at Melbourne Airport I was exchanging messages with Goran Ivanisevic, the coach who is accompanying him. Goran was in a separate room, cut off from Novak because he and the rest of the team had been cleared to enter Australia.
I did not have the chance to speak to Novak but I would urge him to get vaccinated — although whether he would listen is another matter. I also accept that as someone in my fifties I look at my health in a different way from those in their twenties and thirties who feel more invincible.
I have had conversations with my own children who are in that bracket, eventually persuading them to have the jab. Will Novak take that step? I am not sure that he will.
Four times I sat in his box as he won the Australian Open, so I am fully aware of his strengths
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.
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.
I would urge him to get vaccinated – although whether he would listen is another matter
It will be all the more disconcerting because he loves playing in Australia and perhaps no stadium more than the Rod Laver Arena.
Yet people should remember that this is a very different and special individual who had a difficult route to the top. He is not the same as Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal and came up a very different way.
He was not the most popular boy in the class, you might say, he is Novak Djokovic from Serbia and disrupted the other two crowd favourites.
He is not the same as Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, and came up a very different way
He has an extreme diet and an extreme lifestyle to give himself the best chance, and ultimately you have to say he has made the right decisions because the results show it.
In this instance, however, he is making life very difficult for himself. Even if he is allowed to stay in Australia this is going to be the worst preparation he has ever had for a Grand Slam. A long journey and then being locked up without the ability to train makes it difficult for any finely-tuned athlete.
But if anyone can recover from this then it is him, due to the same strength of mind which is proving to be a mixed blessing.