Former World No.1 Marcelo Rios has labelled Novak Djokovic the "king of stupidity" over his continued refusal to get the Covid-19 vaccine.
The 20-time grand slam champion has played just one tournament so far in 2022, losing to Jiri Vesely in the quarter-finals of the Dubai Championships.
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He will return to action on Tuesday at the Monte Carlo Masters, intent on moving past the controversy surrounding his vaccination status.
“I miss competition,” the Serbian star said on Sunday on the opening day of the clay-court season in Monaco.
“I still feel motivation to be on the tour and compete… and try to challenge the best players in the world for the biggest titles.”
However one person who isn't ready to move on is Rios, who still can't believe that Djokovic is willing to give up the race to become the greatest male player of all time.
“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,” Rios said to the La Tercera newspaper.
“I thought the same (initially), but then I started travelling 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 it was out of fear, but now he is being too arrogant.”
Djokovic wasn't able to defend his Australian Open title in January after he was deported from the country for not being vaccinated.
He also had to skip tournaments in Indian Wells, California, and Miami because he couldn’t travel to the United States for the same reason.
He had previously declared that he will not get the vaccine in order to be able to compete.
Rafa Nadal went on to win the Australian Open for his 21st major trophy, breaking a tie with Djokovic and Roger Federer.
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Djokovic then lost his No.1 ranking for the first time in two years at the end of February, sliding to World No.2 behind Daniil Medvedev before reclaiming the top spot.
"The last four, five months have been really challenging for me mentally and emotionally but here I am and I try to leave all that behind and move on,” Djokovic said on Sunday.
“I don't feel like it has left huge scars on me that I’m unable to train or participate in tournaments or live my life.
“I will try to use that as a fuel for what’s coming up.”
Authorities in France and Monaco recently lifted most Covid-19 restrictions, allowing people who aren’t vaccinated into the country and back into restaurants, sports arenas and other venues.
With his French Open title in 2021 still fresh in his mind, Djokovic proclaimed that the clay in Monaco is the best surface to stage his comeback even though “historically it has not been my most successful surface.”
“I will try to use (the French Open title) as an inspiration to kick-start the clay court season the best possible way,” he said.
“I understand that I probably won’t be at my best, particularly at the beginning.
"It will take some time, some matches to really get in the groove.”
The French Open starts on May 22 in Paris.
with Associated Press
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