Former World No 1 Marcelo Rios has labeled Novak Djokovic as the ‘king of stupidity’ due to his vaccination stance.
Djokovic missed the Australian Open in January after the government revoked his visa for a second time due to his vaccination status.
As for this year, the 20-time Grand Slam champion as only featured in one tournament – having played just three matches at an event in Dubai in February.
Marcelo Rios labeled Novak Djokovic as the ‘king of stupidity’ due to his vaccination stance
Novak Djokovic (pictured at Melbourne Airport with his team) missed the Australian Open in January after the government revoked his visa for a second time due to his vaccination status
The Serbian’s absence from the Australian Open benefitted rival Rafael Nadal – who picked up his 21st Grand Slam title at Melbourne Park.
Rios, who was the 2008 Australian Open runner-up, is concerned Djokovic’s vaccination stance will continue to impact his career.
He fears the gap between Djokovic – who has also temporarily lost his status as world No 1 to Daniil Medvedev – and Nadal will become too big to close.
Speaking to La Tercera newspaperRios said: ‘It’s stupid, he is going to give up the race and he is not going to be the best in history because of a vaccine.
The former World No 1 went on to say: ‘I thought the same (initially), but then I started traveling and I had to take it.
‘I don’t know what the reason is, but if you’re trying to be the best in history and you’re going to give up the race for some vaccines, you have to be the king of stupidity. I believe that at first he was out of fear, but now he is being too arrogant.’
The Serbian’s absence from the Australian Open benefitted rival Rafael Nadal (above) – who picked up his 21st Grand Slam title at Melbourne Park
Rios (pictured above at the Monte Carlo Open in 2000) who was the 2008 Australian Open runner-up, is concerned Djokovic’s vaccination stance will continue to impact his career
Djokovic was forced to leave Australia after 11 days of remarkable legal wrangling. He was spotted at Melbourne Airport under Australian Federal Police escort less than three hours after the judges made the unanimous ruling.
He also released a statement acknowledging his disappointment with the outcome, which prevented him from competing in his favorite Grand Slam.
He said: ‘I would like to make a brief statement to address the outcomes of today’s Court hearing. I will now be taking some time to rest and to recover, before making any further comments beyond this.
‘I am extremely disappointed with the Court ruling to dismiss my application for judicial review of the Minister’s decision to cancel my visa, which means I cannot stay in Australia and participate in the Australian Open.
‘I respect the Court’s ruling and I will cooperate with the relevant authorities in relation to my departure from the country.
Djokovic previously said he would rather miss out on future tennis trophies than be forced to get a Covid vaccine
‘I am uncomfortable that the focus of the past weeks has been on me and I hope that we can all now focus on the game and tournament I love. I would like to wish the players, tournament officials, staff, volunteers and fans all the best for the tournament.
‘Finally, I would like to thank my family, friends, team, supporters, fans and my fellow Serbians for your continued support. You have all been a great source of strength to me.’
Djokovic was also ruled out of the ATP 1000 tournaments at Indian Wells and Miami, unable to enter the United States without a proof of vaccination.
While that is not required to enter France or any sporting event in the country, French tennis federation (FFT) president Gilles Moretton warned that things could change before the tournament starts in May.
Nevertheless, he will be able to compete in the Monte Carlo Masters. Speaking ahead of the event, Djokovic admitted he has probably lost his edge after being out of action for so long.
Djokovic is eager to add to his trophy collection and close the gap between himself and Nadal
Djokovic is set to return to action when he competes in the Monte Carlo Masters this month
‘I understand that I probably won’t be at my best at the beginning of this week,’ added Djokovic. ‘I am still testing my engine, so to speak, and building my game, so it will obviously take some time, some matches to really get in the groove and find the competitive play that I really need.’
That being said, Djokovic is still eager to add to his trophy collection and close the gap between himself and Nadal.
‘I still feel motivated to be on the tour and compete with young guys and try to challenge the best players in the world for the biggest titles,’ Djokovic – who won in Monte Carlo in both 2013 and 2015 – said. ‘I’m very pleased to be here and Monaco has been home for over 10 years.
‘I have been eagerly waiting for the moment when I will be out competing again, so this is the best place where I could possibly start.’ Djokovic will face Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in the opening round at the Monte Carlo Masters.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC’S AUSTRALIAN OPEN EPIC VISA SAGA
Novak Djokovic’s defense of his Australian Open title remains in doubt after Australian immigration officials canceled his visa for the second time.
Here’s how the saga has unfolded:
Jan 4: Djokovic tweets that he is on his way to the Australian Open under a medical exemption. He writes on Instagram: ‘I’ve spent fantastic quality time with my loved ones over the break and today I’m heading Down Under with an exemption permission. Let’s go 2022!!’
Jan 5: Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison warns Djokovic he will be on the ‘next plane home’ if his medical exemption is deemed insufficient, and is adamant Djokovic will not receive preferential treatment.
Jan 5: Djokovic’s visa is canceled upon his arrival in Melbourne. The Australian Border Force announces that the player ‘failed to provide appropriate evidence to meet the entry requirements for Australia’.
Jan 6: Djokovic is sent to the Park Hotel in Melbourne after being refused a visa. He launches an appeal, which is adjourned until 10am on January 10. Serbian president Aleksandar Vucic says Djokovic is the victim of ‘persecution’.
Jan 9: Djokovic’s lawyers claim he was granted a vaccine exemption to enter Australia because he recorded a positive Covid-19 test in Serbia on December 16. However, social media posts suggest he attended a number of social events in the days following his apparent diagnosis.
Jan 10: Djokovic’s visa cancellation is quashed by Judge Anthony Kelly, who orders the Australian Government to pay legal costs and release Djokovic from detention within half-an-hour. Djokovic says he is ‘pleased and grateful’ and wishes to ‘stay and try to compete’.
Jan 11: Djokovic’s title defense remains in doubt as the Australian Immigration Minister ponders whether to over-ride the court’s ruling, reportedly due to an alleged misleading claim made by Djokovic on his entry form relating to his movements in the 14 days prior to arrival in Australia.
Jan 12: Djokovic admits making an ‘error of judgment’ by attending an interview with a French journalist while Covid positive. He adds that, although he attended a children’s tennis event the day after being tested, he did not receive notification of the positive test until after the event.
Jan 13: Djokovic is drawn to face fellow Serb Miomir Kecmanovic in the first round.
Jan 14: Immigration minister Minister Alex Hawke cancels Djokovic’s visa for a second time, saying in a statement it was ‘on health and good order grounds’.
Jan 15: Djokovic’s lawyers have a minor win in court, with the judge agreeing to have the matter heard by a panel of three judges on Sunday – a decision fiercely opposed by the government
Jan 16: Djokovic LOSES his appeal and is told he will be deported
Reporting by PA