By John Mowat                  

Novak Djokovic is a 34 year old Serbian International Tennis Star who lives in Belgrade. He has won 20 Major Tournaments in Melbourne, Paris, London & New York. He is currently ranked at Number 1 in World Tennis. His net worth is estimated $222 million, earned principally by winning Tennis Majors, other tournaments, sponsorship & media deals.

Serbia, a south Slav Country neighbouring Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Croatia, & Bosnia Herzegovina.

It has a population of around 7 million people, a small country of similar size to Scotland. Scotland has played Serbia, at Football, a number of times in recent years. Scotland beat the Serbs 5:4 in a penalty shootout following a 1:1 draw in Belgrade on 12th Nov 2021, enabling Scotland to qualify for its first major European Tournament in over 20 years.

The main religion, in Serbia is Orthodox Christian, while neighbouring Croatia is mostly Roman Catholic Christian and Bosnia Herzegovina is 50:50 Muslim & Roman Catholic.

Serbia was part of the Ottoman Empire for over 500 years, it’s people often suffering badly under Turkish Rule.

Serbia was occupied by Austria Hungary from 1915 until the end of WW 1, while Bulgaria held the remaining 25 %.

Serbia has traditionally looked on Russia as one of its closest international friends over many years.

The politics of Serbia as, a Balkan Country, has been complex over many centuries, bordering with competing countries & spheres of influence.

The assassination of arch Duke Franz Ferdinand of Austria Hungary, in Sarajeavo, on 28th June 1914, by Slav Gavrilo Princip, put in place a series of events which led to the start of WW 1.

Serbia, on the winning allied side was incorporated with 5 other countries into Yugoslavia, on 1st December 1918 after the end of WW 1, subsequently breaking up in 1990.

Serbs were involved in a number of vicious wars with Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia Herzegovina & Kosovo resulting in tens of thousands of casualties.

Croatia & Slovenia were internationally recognised in 1992, with Serbia widely regarded as the principal aggressor.

The massacre of over 8000 young Bosnian Muslim men was greeted with revulsion, worldwide. Some of the Serbian perpetrators were subsequently tried & convicted at the International Court in the Hague.

Oppression & expulsion of 840,000 thousands of ethnic Albanians from Kosovo &, in 1998, led to NATO intervention against this ethnic cleansing. Serbia experienced a difficult period of political, economic & cultural change in the early years of the 21st Century.

Pre the 2020 Covid 19 epidemic, Serbia was regarded as a safe destination for visitors. It is, in European terms, a fairly poor country.  Novak Djokovic is regarded as a leading Serbian sportsman, celebrity & role model in his own country.

He has enjoyed considerable success on the International Tennis Circuit but has never received the warmth & support of crowds, given to other leading international tennis stars such as, Andy Murray, from Scotland Roger Federer, from Switzerland or Raphael Nadal from Spain. He is regarded, rightly or otherwise as a bit aloof and arrogant.

Over the past year, Countries organising international Tennis Majors & tournaments have expected all players to be fully vaccinated & now boosted from Covid 19.

Almost alone among leading Tennis players, Novak Djokovic has been portrayed as adopting a populist anti-vax stance.

He was criticised, internationally for participating in a tournament in Belgrade in the Summer of 2020, after which many players caught Covid. More recently, he was caught by television cameras, in Belgrade, in Dec 2021, presenting tennis awards to juniors, without wearing a mask and reported to have been affected by Covid again.

As a sporting role model, worldwide, Djokovic thus attracts lots of international attention as a sporting role, Tennis role model.

As a nine time winner of the January Tennis Australian Majors, the unvaccinated, Djokovic hoped to participate again in the 2022 tournament. This annoyed the Australian Government and immigration authorities who subsequently detained him, on arrival at Melbourne, two weeks ago. While he won one court appeal, he lost the second one was effectively deported from Australia, missing the 2022 tournament.

While other leading Tennis players regard his whole Australian saga as being bad for the game of international Tennis, there is little sympathy for his anti-vaccination stance. More & more countries expect visitors and sports people to be fully vaccinated, on arrival, to help protect other players and officials.

The anti-vax stance has been supported by former USA populist President Donald Trump & President Bolsonaro, in Brazil.      

The advice from the Australian Government, other leading tennis players, spectators, and ordinary people, appears to be “Stop Posturing & Get Vaccinated”. It remains to be seen whether he will be able to participate in future 2022 tennis tournaments.

As we have seen in the recent UK political debate, the majority of people dislike “One rule for the Rich & Famous and Another Rule for everyone else”.

 It remains to be seen if Novak Djokovic gets the message.

playing sport courtyard ball
Photo by cottonbro on

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