Serbian tennis powerhouse Novak Djokovic scored a major comeback on Sunday when he won the Australian Open roughly one year after being deported from the country due to his refusal to take the coronavirus vaccine.
Over on ESPN, John McEnroe, who strongly supported Djokovic during the controversy, had what appeared to be a tense exchange with commentator Chris Fowler shortly after the tennis icon picked up his victory over Stefanos Tsitsipas on Sunday. Per Fox News:
As McEnroe and Fowler recapped all that Djokovic had gone through in the last two years, there was an awkward exchange over the tennis great’s deportation. Djokovic chose not to be vaccinated against the coronavirus, and controversy over his exempt status led to Australian authorities deporting him last year. A second firestorm was avoided earlier this month as Djokovic was able to enter the country without any issues.
The tense exchange occurred when McEnroe recalled that Djokovic got “deported out of Australia,” received no points at Wimbledon, and will not be able to play in the U.S. Open due to his vaccination status.
“A part of his choices, to be fair. He made choices that led to that for some of those things,” Fowler interjected.
“I don’t think … I think he should have been committed to play,” responded McEnroe.
“OK, well, that’s a debate,” Fowler concluded. “He did make choices that led to that. … But that’s forgotten for the moment.”
Djokovic earned his 22nd Grand Slam title of his career, tying with Rafael Nadal for the record among male players.
Did you hear @cbfowler cut off @JohnMcEnroe just as he's describing what happened last year? Amazing they won't let the talking points go even now pic.twitter.com/uJzRSAQwsX
— The Aisle Seat (@andredursin) January 29, 2023
McEnroe supported Djokovic during the controversy at the Australia Open last year, charging that he should have been allowed to play.
“Well, first of all, I think it’s BS. That’s what I think. I think he should be allowed to play. My personal opinion, as I’ve been vaccinated, I had a booster shot, that’s up to the individual,” McEnroe told Fox News at the time. “If I were him, and I’m not him, he’s won a lot more majors than me probably because he’s dug in his heels and found the gear, that will, that very few people in any sport have ever found, so that’s part of what’s made him so great, he sticks to his guns. He’s perfectly entitled to make the decision.”
“The guy is one of the greatest athletes in any sport,” he continued. “He’s very careful about anything he puts in his body. So, it’s frustrating to see at this point when we’re sitting here and all having a great time at an LAFC soccer game and that he’s not allowed into the country right now because he’s not vaccinated. It’s really unfortunate, but that’s the rules we really have right now with the government. I don’t agree with it but c’est la vie at the moment.”
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