'Not our favourite': Karl blasts Novak Djokovic over vaccine saga

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Pictured here, TV host Karl Stefanovic and World No.1 tennis star Novak Djokovic.
Karl Stefanovic says Novak Djokovic should not be able to play in Australia unless he's been double vaccinated. Pic: Ch9/Getty

Channel Nine identity Karl Stefanovic has taken a swipe at Novak Djokovic over the controversial vaccine debate that threatens the World No.1's participation at the Australian Open.

Djokovic - the 20-time grand slam champion and defending Australian Open champion - revealed he would rather miss the grand slam than prove his vaccination status.

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Unvaccinated stars will likely be banned from competing at the Melbourne tournament as Victoria recovers from a third wave of coronavirus.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has introduced a vaccine mandate for professional athletes competing in domestic sporting leagues and has hinted tennis stars who haven't been double jabbed may not be granted entry to the state.

Immigration Minister Alex Hawke also confirmed on Wednesday that Djokovic would not be allowed into Australia unless he was double-vaccinated. 

Djokovic - who has admitted his opposition to vaccinations in the past - this week refused to confirm or deny whether he's had a Covid-19 jab.

"Things being as they are, I still don't know if I will go to Melbourne," Djokovic told the online edition of Serbian daily Blic.

"I will not reveal my status whether I have been vaccinated or not, it is a private matter and an inappropriate inquiry.

"People go too far these days in taking the liberty to ask questions and judge a person.

"Whatever you say 'yes, no, maybe, I am thinking about it', they will take advantage."

The issue has sparked plenty of debate, with Today Show co-host Stefanovic the latest to take aim at the Serbian superstar after supporting Victoria's stance.

Novak Djokovic's (pictured) vaccine status is unknown. (Getty Images)
Novak Djokovic's (pictured) vaccine status is unknown. (Getty Images)

"You're going to have people going to the Australian Open tennis tournament, which is going to be incredible," Stefanovic said.

"A shame not to have him there. You'll have double vaccinated people in the crowd, you can't let him in.

"He is not our favourite anyway."

Co-host Allison Langdon added: "He is not well liked, is he?"

Victoria's premier said unvaccinated players would be unlikely to receive a visa to enter Australia and, if they were, they would likely have to complete two weeks of quarantine.

Record quest could dictate Novak Djokovic decision

However, tennis commentator and coach Roger Rasheed doubts Djokovic will miss the Australian Open and says there is plenty of time for circumstances to change.

“I think it’s a given that (Novak Djokovic) will be here in January,” Rasheed said on SEN Sportsday.

“We’ll get to a vaccination rate here in Australia by then; the circumstances are going to change in the next few weeks. We’re getting closer and closer to unravelling everything and the circumstances will be different by the end of the year.

“Novak is probably only interested in what’s happening towards the end of December, because those conditions will probably dictate how it works when he gets into Australia.

“He wants to break the record, it would be brilliant for us to have it in Australia and we’d want to have him break that record here as that’s something that will stand up in world sport.”

One of the reasons why people find it hard to believe Djokovic would willingly miss the Australian Open is his desire to stand alone at the pinnacle of men's tennis.

Djokovic has won the Australian Open a record nine times and would be heavy favourite to take his tally into double digits.

Coach and commentator Roger Rasheed said he still thinks Novak Djokovic (pictured) will be able to compete at the Australian Open. (Getty Images)
Coach and commentator Roger Rasheed said he still thinks Novak Djokovic (pictured) will be able to compete at the Australian Open. (Getty Images)

The added incentive to overtake Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in the grand slam title race also looms as irresistible factor for the Serb.

The absence of Djokovic in Melbourne, couple with doubts over whether Federer plays, would give Nadal a terrific chance win a record-breaking 21st men's major.

"Of course I want to go, Australia is my most successful grand slam tournament," Djokovic said.

"I want to compete, I love this sport and I am still motivated.

"I am following the situation regarding the Australian Open and I understand the final decision (on Covid-19 related restrictions) will be made in two weeks.

"I believe there will be a lot of restrictions just like this year, but I doubt there will be too many changes.

"My manager, who is in contact with the Australian tennis federation, tells me they are trying to improve the conditions for everyone, both for those who have been vaccinated and those who have not."

with agencies

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