Now Spain says Djokovic should get the jab – just like hero Rafa

Novak Djokovic should lead by example and get vaccinated against Covid-19, a Spanish government spokesperson has said, comparing his refusal to do so with Rafael Nadal’s acceptance of the need to be jabbed.

Spain now wants world tennis number one, Serbia's Novak Djokovic, to be vaccinated before visiting their country. .(AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)

Spain now wants world tennis number one, Serbia's Novak Djokovic, to be vaccinated before visiting their country. .(AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)

The world No.1 was laying low in Belgrade on Tuesday, recuperating after his long flight from Australia and previous detention. He had been deported after his attempt to defend his Australian Open title fell foul of border regulations denying entry to unvaccinated people.

His status as the world’s most famous unvaccinated athlete continued to provoke discussion with Spanish government spokesperson Isabel Rodriguez asked on Tuesday whether he would be allowed to compete in Spain.

“What Mr Djokovic has to do is get vaccinated, that would be the most sensible thing to do,” she said.

“Leading by example is important and this is indeed what our country’s great sportsmen and women do. For example, Mr Nadal,” she added, referring to one of Djokovic’s great rivals with whom he is tied on 20 major titles.

Even though vaccination is not mandatory in Spain, the vaccination rate is one of the highest in Europe.

Djokovic travels regularly to Spain where he owns a house in the southern resort of Marbella. He spent a few days there in late December and early January and video footage showed him training there.

While the Spanish government may regard it as desirable for Djokovic to be vaccinated, under current entry guidelines he would be likely to be allowed to compete in events such as late April’s ATP Masters 100 tournament in Madrid.

As a non-European Union citizen he would not automatically be allowed to enter if not vaccinated.

But an exemption is granted to ‘highly qualified workers whose work is necessary and cannot be postponed or carried out remotely, including participants in high-level sports events that take place in Spain’.

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Djokovic has won the Madrid title in 2011, 2016 and 2019, the last time he attended (there was no event in 2020).

There is also an event in Barcelona in mid-April but since that clashes with the Serbia Open at the Novak Tennis Centre Djokovic is expected to be in Belgrade.

He may even give Western Europe’s clay-court swing a miss since he would not, at present, be allowed to enter the French Open it builds up to.

A lot, however, can change in three months.

-with Reuters

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