When the tennis tour was on hiatus during the spring of 2020, Djokovic did several Instagram chats with the wellness guru Chervin Jafarieh. During one of their conversations, Djokovic claimed that the mind could purify water.
“I know some people that, through energetical transformation, through the power of prayer, through the power of gratitude, they managed to turn the most toxic food, or maybe the most polluted water, into the most healing water, because the water reacts,” he said. “Scientists have proven that in experiment, that molecules in the water react to our emotions to what has been said.” (“The people of Flint, Michigan, would love to hear that news,” the tennis commentator Mary Carillo replied.)
It was during this same period that Djokovic revealed on Facebook Live his opposition to vaccines and vaccine mandates. A few months later, he hosted an exhibition tour in the Balkans that became a superspreader event. Djokovic and his wife were among those who tested positive for the coronavirus. In the press and in tennis circles, Djokovic was pilloried for staging matches — with fans in attendance — during a public health crisis. But it was nothing compared to the opprobrium he has faced this month, particularly in Australia, where the public is chafing under Covid restrictions, and the Djokovic fight is playing out against the backdrop of an upcoming national election.
Back in Serbia, however, Djokovic is seen as a victim who is being victimized because he is Serbian. “They are stomping all over Novak to stomp all over Serbia and Serbian people,” Djokovic’s father, Srdjan, told reporters. The Serbian foreign ministry put out a statement saying that the Serbian public “has a strong impression” that Djokovic was “lured to travel to Australia in order to be humiliated” and that it was feeling “understandable indignation.”