Novak Djokovic’s controversial beliefs and why he opposes the vaccine

According to Novak Djokovic, one of the defining days of his career came in the summer of 2010. He had already won his first Grand Slam title, but recurring shortness of breath plagued him in matches. To watch Djokovic now is to see one of the world’s toughest athletes in action. He covers the tennis court with almost robotic efficiency, always two steps ahead of his failing opponents. At the time, it was Djokovic who felt abnormally jaded. On several occasions, in the heat of the moment, he even requested medical leave for fear of collapsing.

Dr. Igor Cetojevic, a Serb who describes himself as an “energy medicine specialist”, was put in touch with Djokovic through a mutual friend. The pair met in Croatia, where Cetojevic asked Djokovic to extend his left arm while pressing a piece of bread against his stomach. To Djokovic’s surprise, his arm felt noticeably weaker when near gluten. Ridiculous as it may seem that such a meticulous player would be docile to such vague “alternative therapies”, it is possible to see all the success and controversy in Djokovic’s career – 20 Grand Slam titles, a record number of days spent as world No. 1 and not quite so detained in an immigration hotel in Melbourne – through the lens of this day.

Long before Djokovic stubbornly forged one of the great sporting careers of the modern era, he had already entrenched himself in a mindset that deflected outside influences. As a child raised as an Orthodox Christian in war-torn Serbia, he was taught to be self-reliant. As a prolific junior, he was a relative outsider whose parents uprooted from a ski resort in the mountains to risk everything for Djokovic’s unlikely journey to the top. This feeling of resistance and ingrained suffering, which is often interpreted as unpleasant or distant, has always been fundamental to the character of Djokovic. It also acted as a defense mechanism, protecting him against public favoritism for Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, the feeling that he was always an unwanted intruder into their legacy.

This outsider mentality helps explain Djokovic’s belief in alternative medicine – a scene that has existed in Belgrade since the 1970s – and his skepticism of conventional science. He is adamant that he can find “basic means of surviving” by drawing on the strength of his own body, whether fighting a virus or an injury, without the need for outside intervention.

Sometimes that belief sparked comedic moments, like when Djokovic teamed up with Pepe Imaz, a spirit coach-guide, whose techniques included the power of extremely long hugs. Around the same time, Djokovic began extolling the virtues of telekinesis and telepathy and referred to “gifts of a higher order, the source, the god, whatever, that allow us to understand the higher power and higher order within ourselves”.

Just last year, after losing in the US Open final to Daniil Medvedev, Djokovic made one of many pilgrimages to the Pyramid of the Sun, located in the Bosnian mountain town of Visoko. The ancient site is said to be hallowed with mystical healing powers. “I know there are many doubts and dilemmas about the authenticity [of the place]”, Djokovic said after a visit. “[But] to fully understand what is going on here… you have to come.

His friendship with wellness entrepreneur Chervin Jafarieh, who sells all sorts of natural supplements, also drew excessive attention when, on a live stream, Djokovic claimed toxic foods and polluted water could be purified. through “energetic transformation, through the power of prayer, through the power of gratitude”.

But the true depth of Djokovic’s belief in alternative treatments was epitomized by his vehement opposition to undergoing surgery in 2017. Despite nearly unbearable pain in his elbow, which saw Djokovic miss out on a Grand Slam in a calendar. year for the first time in more than a decade, he insisted that a cure could be found through holistic medicine. When he finally died in February 2018, Djokovic claimed to have cried for three days after waking up from surgery. “Every time I thought about what I had done, I felt like I had failed myself,” he said. He has won eight of the 14 Grand Slam tournaments played since.

These beliefs help put into context why Djokovic is so resistant to taking the vaccine. He is not so much an anti-vaxxer in the sense of indulging in wild conspiracy theories regarding the jab specifically, but ideologically opposed to such scientific treatment methods in all areas. “Personally, I am opposed to vaccination and I would not want to be forced by someone to get vaccinated in order to be able to travel,” he said in April 2020.

Many will rightly ignore this as a self-serving view and share little sympathy for Djokovic’s seemingly unsuccessful attempt to secure a bye to defend his Australian Open title next week, but it’s part of a theme. wider that is integral to his entire career: singular in his beliefs, stubborn to a fault, and determined to see them through to a bitter end. Severely tested by the pandemic, these qualities have made him both a legend and an outcast.

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