'Big mistake': Former coach's stinging serve for Novak Djokovic

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Pictured right, Boris Becker with Novak Djokovic during their time together as coach and player.
Former coach Boris Becker says Novak Djokovic is making a big mistake by choosing not to get vaccinated. Pic: Getty

Tennis great Boris Becker says his former protege Novak Djokovic is making a "big mistake" if he doesn't get vaccinated against Covid-19.

Djokovic - who has previously stated his opposition to vaccinations - is locked in a legal battle to have his visa approved after being refused entry into Australia by local authorities.

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The Serbian is awaiting the outcome of an appeal against the decision by the Australian Border Force to cancel the reigning Australian Open champion's entry visa and deport him, with an appeal set for Monday.

For so long, Djokovic refused to reveal his vaccination status, insisting it was his right to privacy not to divulge such medical information.

The World No.1 appeared to contradict himself after triumphantly talking to social media earlier in the week to announce that he'd received "exemption permission" to compete at the Australian Open, which the federal government deemed inadequate to grant him a visa.

Becker - himself a former world No.1 and twice Australian Open champion as well as winning three Wimbledon singles titles - enjoyed a successful three-year partnership with Djokovic which included six grand slam victories.

The 54-year-old maintains a close relationship with the Serbian, but feels their views on how to best protect against coronavirus are very different.

Novak Djokovic 'threatening' his tennis legacy

"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 a Daily Mail column.

"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 feels if Djokovic does maintain his vaccine hesitancy, it could present more hurdles to his playing career.

Seen here, Boris Becker and Novak Djokovic talking at a practice session during the 2020 ATP Cup.
Boris Becker and Novak Djokovic talk during a practice session during the 2020 ATP Cup. Pic: Getty

"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 said.

"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."

with AAP

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