Novak Djokovic's telling confession amid $42 million sponsor drama

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Novak Djokovic, pictured here speaking to the media at Roland Garros ahead of the French Open.
Novak Djokovic speaks to the media at Roland Garros ahead of the French Open. (Photo by Andy Cheung/Getty Images)

Novak Djokovic has spoken out after the loss of a number of high-profile sponsors due to his vaccination status.

Earlier this month, UKG ended its three-year partnership with Djokovic as the fallout from the World No.1's deportation from Australia continued.

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UKG was one of Djokovic’s patch partners on the sleeve of his Lacoste shirts, along with car company Peugeot.

In March, Peugeot also severed ties with the 20-time grand slam champion.

Patch partnerships are said to be among the most lucrative for tennis players, and can be worth as much as $10 million, while Djokovic's total earnings from sponsorships in 2021 was reportedly $42 million.

Addressing the situation ahead of the French Open on Sunday, Djokovic said: “There are things I cannot talk about before public statements are made.

“My main sponsors stayed with me and I am grateful for it, but some sponsors I no longer have.

"That is all that I can say - it is not my place to evaluate whether somebody should have stayed with me or left me.”

Lacoste appears to be sticking by the Serbian star for now, with Djokovic revealing he has been in contact with the company's CEO.

“We have been in regular contact, mostly [agent] Edoardo [Artaldi], but I have personally spoken with the head of Lacoste,” he said.

“They understood the whole situation, everything that was happening.

“As their global ambassador, I am important to them.

"But their position was not easy. They have told us that they have been under pressure from the media, from some clients that maybe weren’t happy with me staying with the company.

“Challenges always present themselves, so to say, but I think they made a good choice and I am grateful.

"I will try to represent the Lacoste brand just like I did up until now in the best possible way.

"After all, it is a brand with great tradition - one of the greatest in tennis. And I am proud to wear the crocodile on my shirt.”

Novak Djokovic, pictured here in his Lacoste shirt.
Novak Djokovic in his Lacoste shirt. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)

Lacoste sticking by Novak Djokovic for now

Lacoste is believed to be Djokovic's most lucrative partner and can be worth as much as $10 million annually.

Djokovic was seen wearing UKG patches on his sleeve while playing in Dubai in February.

However they were missing when he played in Monte Carlo and Madrid last month.

Carlos Tavera, CEO of Peugeot's parent company Stellantis, confirmed in March that they had ended their partnership with Djokovic.

His other remaining sponsors include Head, Asics, Hublot and Raiffeisen Bank.

Novak Djokovic, pictured here with wife Jelena at the 2019 Laureus World Sport Awards.
Novak Djokovic with wife Jelena at the 2019 Laureus World Sport Awards. (Photo credit should read VALERY HACHE/AFP via Getty Images)

"We are waiting to see what his position is with regard to all that he went through," Hublot CEO Ricardo Guadalupe previously told Reuters.

"The principle of vaccines is that it's something private. We value personal freedom.

"Everyone can decide. One can be in favour or against. That's our position."

Djokovic was infamously deported from Australia ahead of the Australian Open in January and watched on as Rafa Nadal won a men's record 21st grand slam title.

The World No.1 wasn't allowed into the United States in March for Masters 1000 events at Indian Wells and Miami, but has been allowed to take part in the European clay-court season.

The 35-year-old won the Italian Open last week in the lead-up to the French Open and will play Yoshihito Nishioka in the first round on Monday.

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