Novak Djokovic says he will not defend his Wimbledon or French Open titles if the tournaments require mandatory vaccination for competitors.
“Yes, that is the price that I’m willing to pay,” the world number one told the BBC when asked if he would sacrifice participating in the competitions.
“I say that everybody has the right to choose or act or say or feel whatever is appropriate for them.”
The 34-year-old, who is not vaccinated against Covid-19, said he would forego the tournaments “because the principles of decision making on my body are more important than any title or anything else.
“I’m trying to be in tune with my body as much as I possibly can,” he added.
Djokovic distanced himself from the anti-vaccination movement, despite being deported from Melbourne ahead of the Australian Open last month amid concerns about his vaccine status.
He said: “I have never said I’m part of that movement.
“It’s really unfortunate that there has been this kind of misconception and wrong conclusion based upon something that I completely disagree with,” he added.
He told the broadcaster he was “keeping [his] mind open” to the possibility of getting vaccinated in the future “because we are all trying to find collectively, a best possible solution to end Covid”.
“I was never against vaccination. I understand that globally, everyone is trying to put a big effort into handling this virus and seeing, hopefully, an end soon to this virus.”
Djokovic addressed his deportation from Australia after some had suggested that it was convenient he had tested positive for Covid in mid-December.
The timing allowed him to be granted a medical exemption to attend the tournament.
Djokovic said: “I understand that there is a lot of criticism, and I understand that people come out with different theories on how lucky I was or how convenient it is.
“But no-one is lucky and convenient of getting Covid. Millions of people have and are still struggling with Covid around the world.
“So I take this very seriously, I really don’t like someone thinking I’ve misused something or in my own favour, in order to, you know, get a positive PCR test and eventually go to Australia.
“I was really sad and disappointed with the way it all ended for me in Australia. It wasn’t easy.
“I was not deported from Australia on the basis that I was not vaccinated, or I broke any rules or that I made an error in my visa declaration.
“The reason why I was deported from Australia was because the Minister for Immigration used his discretion to cancel my visa based on his perception that I might create some anti-vax sentiment in the country or in the city, which I completely disagree with.”
Four-time Wimbledon semi-finalist Tim Henman, who is on the committee of the All England Club which organises the tournament, feels Djokovic is unlikely to be stopped from playing in SW19 this summer.
Asked if he foresaw any issue with Djokovic playing at Wimbledon, Henman told BBC Radio 4: “I don’t think so. To get into the UK at the moment, those are the guidelines the Championship will be following at this stage.
“At this moment in time it is going to be government-led.
“I do understand his concerns. I would reiterate it is absolutely his prerogative to have the vaccine or not. As a former player and a tennis fan, it was probably not what I wanted to hear in that interview, but probably what I expected.
“By taking himself out of the chance to compete in Grand Slams he is certainly jeopardising his chances of being the greatest male player of all time and I think that speaks volumes to his courage, conviction and belief that this is what is best for him.
“You would have thought that very little is going to sway his opinion.”
Djokovic is set to return to action at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, which begin on February 21.
Entrants to Dubai do not need to be vaccinated against Covid-19 and it is a tournament the Serbian has won five times.