Rafael Nadal says it is "crazy" for people to even consider him completing the calendar Grand Slam after triumphing at the Australian Open and French Open.

The Spaniard returned from his long battle with a foot injury to claim the first major of the year in Melbourne, moving clear of Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic for the most grand slam titles in men's history.

Nadal added a record-extending 22nd major to his collection as he lifted a 14th French Open title on Sunday with a straight-sets victory over Casper Ruud.

The 36-year-old was given a couple of injections before every match and will undergo radio frequency injections in a bid to ensure he can go in search of a third major title of the year at the All England Club.

Nadal remains unsure whether he would undergo a major operation to prolong his career, but hopes to be able to be in London when Wimbledon starts on June 27.

Success on the grass courts of Wimbledon would be a third major of the year before the US Open starts at the end of August, but Nadal insists he cannot look that far ahead on his quest for all four grand slams.

"It's crazy to think about completing the Grand Slam after Australia and Roland Garros," he told

"I don't even consider it. More than winning the Grand Slam, I would sign up just to be able to play all four tournaments.

"It's crazy. To win all four, it seems crazy to me because it is something that nobody has done since Rod Laver. 

"The one who came closest was Novak last year. It's crazy to think about it."

While Nadal remains in contention for the calendar Slam, he continues to battle through a foot injury that has plagued him throughout his career.

But the prospect of retirement does not concern Nadal, who is prepared for life after tennis given the amount of times he has thought injury would curtail his playing days.

"I imagine just as I have experienced it many times in my career that I have had to be out of competition for months due to injuries," he added. 

"I have always been happy outside of tennis. It is not something that makes me lose sleep or have any fear of my life after tennis. 

"I have and have always had many things that make me happy beyond tennis."

Novak Djokovic hopes to have his visa reinstated so he can return to feature at the Australian Open following a change of government Down Under.

Djokovic eased to a 6-3 6-3 6-2 victory over Aljaz Bedene at the French Open on Friday to set up a last-16 clash with Diego Schwartzman.

The world number one remains on course to meet record 21-time grand slam winner Rafael Nadal in the quarter-finals at Roland Garros, in what is the Serbian's first major of the year.

Djokovic was banned from playing at the Australian Open in Melbourne and was deported from the country due to his unvaccinated COVID-19 status in January.

The 34-year-old cannot be granted another visa for three years due to Australia's immigration laws, but former Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison previously suggested he could be allowed entry sooner under the "right circumstances".

Djokovic hopes the arrival of new Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese will boost his visa-related hopes of featuring in Melbourne at the start of 2023.

"In terms of the government, yes, I heard the news, but, I mean, I don't know anything about whether my visa is going to be reinstated or whether I'm going to be allowed to come back to Australia," he told reporters.

"I would like to. I would like to go there and play Australian Open. I don't hold any grudges. Look, you know, it was what it was.

"If I have an opportunity to go back to Australia and play a place where I made the biggest success in my career in Grand Slams, I would love to come back."

As for the next clash with Schwartzman as Djokovic aims to equal Nadal's 21 grand slams, the Serbian is expecting a tough test in Paris.

"Well, he's one of the quickest players we have on tour, and his best results in his career came on clay, so of course he's a tough opponent without a doubt," he added. 

"I know him well. We played some really good matches on different surfaces. So playing against him, you always have to expect another ball coming back. I'm ready for the physical battle.

"I haven't spent too much time on the court. I have been striking the ball really well, so I look forward to that challenge."

You don't know what you've got until it's gone.

That is how tennis fans the world over will be feeling after women's world number one Ash Barty shockingly announced her retirement on Wednesday.

Barty noted that achieving a lifelong goal of winning Wimbledon last year and being "spent physically" were motivating factors behind her decision.

The 25-year-old bows out on top having lifted her home slam at the Australian Open back in January, and is a three-time singles major champion.

Following news of her retirement, Stats Perform has delved into some of Barty's best facts from a stellar career.

SECOND ONLY TO OSAKA IN SLAMS SINCE 2016

There have been 14 different singles grand slam champions in a stacked women's game since 2016.

In that time, Barty has women three major titles – the second most alongside Angelique Kerber. Indeed, the only player to have more in the women's game over that period is Naomi Osaka with four.

Barty retires on a 13-match winning streak (all on hard courts), a run that of course includes her triumph at the Australian Open.

It matches the best run of her career, with Barty proving 13 is not unlucky for all by racking up the same amount of wins on clay and grass between May and June 2019 – that stretch having seen her lift her first slam at the French Open.

KVITOVA A FAMILIAR FOE

Barty has mixed it with the best in the women's game but she has faced no player more than two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova.

She has faced the Czech on 10 occasions, with the two sharing five wins apiece. Barty has also beaten Sofia Kenin, Karolina Pliskova, Shelby Rogers and Kiki Bertens on five occasions.

Caroline Wozniacki (3) and Mona Barthel (2) are the only players Barty has faced more than once but never beaten in women's tennis.

Conversely, Barty has defeated each of Marketa Vondrousova, Camila Giorgi, and Saisai Zheng four times from as many attempts, her most matches against any players against whom she has maintained a 100 per cent win rate.

STILL GOING STRONG

Never has the saying "always leave them wanting more" been truer than in the case of Barty.

She has averaged seven aces per match in women's tennis in 2022, the joint-most of any player alongside China's Qinwen Zheng and Hailey Baptiste of the United States.

Barty has made 77 aces in total in 2022, the joint-sixth most of any player but 30 fewer than WTA leader Madison Keys (107).

Moreover, she has won 94 per cent of service games, the highest rate of any player and eight percentage points higher than second-ranked Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan.

Barty won 71 per cent of her points when serving this calendar year, the highest rate of any player and four percentage points higher than second-most Rybakina.

Indeed, Barty did not lose a match in her shortened 2022 season, finishing 11-0 and winning 25 of her final 26 matches. 

114 WEEKS AND OUT

Barty is the second female player to step away from the game when ranked world number one, with Justin Henin having done so in 2008 after 61 consecutive weeks at the top.

Barty does so having racked up 114 straight weeks at the summit of the rankings, a run which represents the fourth longest in the history of the WTA Tour behind only Steffi Graf (186 weeks), Serena Williams (186) and Martina Navratilova (156).

Her accumulated total of 121 weeks represents the seventh highest of all time. Barty finishes her career with 15 singles titles in total and 12 in doubles, while she ends with a 305-102 win-loss singles record, and 200-64 in doubles.

Ash Barty stunned the sporting world on Wednesday by announcing her retirement from tennis, bowing out as the top-ranked player in the women's game.

The popular 25-year-old has not featured since winning her home grand slam at the Australian Open in January, becoming the first female Aussie singles champion of the tournament since Chris O'Neil in 1978.

Announcing the news on her Instagram page, Barty cited achieving a lifelong goal of winning Wimbledon last year as a primary factor behind her decision as well as being "spent physically".

But Barty is by no means the first sporting hero to retire at the top of their game. Below we take a look at some other examples of those who have exited as champions.

ALAIN PROST

The 1993 Formula One season was largely dominated by one man – Williams driver Alain Prost. The Frenchman had to battle hard with the iconic Ayrton Senna at the start of the campaign, with them each taking three wins from the first six races of the season. However, a run of four straight victories for Prost were followed by a string of retirements for Senna, ensuring a fourth world title that provided the ideal ending to a glittering career.

ALEX FERGUSON

One of the most successful managers in world football, Alex Ferguson began a 27-year stint at Manchester United after an excellent spell at Aberdeen. The Scot won 28 major trophies at Old Trafford, including 13 Premier League titles, five FA Cups and two Champions Leagues. His final trophy came with top-flight glory in 2012-13, and 17 days later he brought the curtain down.

PEYTON MANNING

Considered one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, Peyton Manning won his first Super Bowl with the Indianapolis Colts in 2007 and, after an injury-blighted season that raised doubts about his ability aged 39, he added a second with the Denver Broncos in 2016, bowing out on the ultimate high.

RICHIE MCCAW, DAN CARTER

New Zealand became the first nation to successfully defend the Rugby World Cup trophy by beating Australia 34-17 in the final at Twickenham in 2015, adding to their success on home soil four years prior. It proved the end of the line for captain Richie McCaw, who was at the time the most capped player in rugby union with 148 appearances for the All Blacks, as well as mercurial fly-half Dan Carter. Ma'a Nonu, Conrad Smith and Kevin Mealamu were also among an influential contingent that opted to end their international careers.

PETE SAMPRAS

In defeating Andre Agassi in the final of the 2002 US Open, the same opponent he overcame to win his first grand slam 12 years prior, Pete Sampras secured his place among the greats in men's tennis. It was a then-record 14th major singles title for a male player for the American, a milestone that has since been surpassed by Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, but he did not compete again and announced his retirement almost one year later.

PHILIPP LAHM, MIROSLAV KLOSE

At 31 you still have a number of years ahead of you in football. However, after lifting the World Cup trophy with Germany in 2014, Philipp Lahm decided to call time on his international career and focus on club football with Bayern Munich. The versatile full-back made 113 appearances for his country and was joined by fellow centurions Per Mertesacker and Miroslav Klose – whose tally of 71 international strikes is a German record – in switching focus to domestic matters.

MARION BARTOLI

A first grand slam at Wimbledon in 2013 appeared to be the breakthrough moment for a 28-year-old Marion Bartoli, but reality proved very different. The Frenchwoman defeated Sabine Lisicki – who had overcome pre-tournament favourites Serena Williams and Agnieszka Radwanska – in the All England Club final, but announced her retirement during the Western and Southern Open just 40 days later due to persistent injuries. She attempted a comeback in 2018 but continued setbacks and injuries curtailed those plans.

NICO ROSBERG

Nico Rosberg had engaged in several intense battles with Lewis Hamilton before finally getting the better of his Mercedes team-mate to become Formula One world champion in the 2016 season. Still only 31, Rosberg had potentially several more years in F1 but the German instead opted to depart having reached the pinnacle of his sport.

The Grand Slam Board has announced that first-to-10 tie-breaks will conclude the final sets of all four majors with immediate effect.

Starting with May's French Open, the decision is being adopted on a trial basis with the aim of providing "greater consistency" to the rules when matches go the distance.

Prior to Wednesday's announcement, the French Open, Australian Open, US Open and Wimbledon each had their own rules when games went to a deciding tie-break.

The Australian Open is the only grand slam to already employ the first-to-10 rule at 6-6.

Wimbledon previously played first-to-seven at 12-12, while the US Open played a first-to-seven at 6-6.

There has not previously been a deciding tie-break at Roland-Garros, with all matches continuing until a player secured a two-game lead in the decider.

A statement released on behalf of Grand Slam Board members Jayne Hrdlicka, Gilles Moretton, Ian Hewitt and Mike McNulty confirmed the changes.

It read: "The Grand Slam Board's decision is based on a strong desire to create greater consistency in the rules of the game at the Grand Slams, and thus enhance the experience for the players and fans alike.

"This trial, which has been approved by the rules of the tennis committee governed by the ITF, will apply to all Grand Slams across qualifying, men's singles and doubles, women's singles and doubles, wheelchair and junior events in singles, and will commence at the 2022 edition of Roland-Garros."

The rule change will be reviewed after a full Grand Slam year and will remain in place should it be deemed a success.

The tweaks to the current format will ensure no repeat of John Isner's marathon battle with Nicolas Mahut at Wimbledon in 2010, which the American edged 70-68 in the final set of their first-round match.

The ATP, WTA, International Tennis Federation (ITF) and the four grand slam organisers have announced the Tennis Plays for Peace campaign.

Along with the campaign, which will include efforts on social media and at tournaments, each of the seven organisations has pledged to donate $100,000 to humanitarian relief efforts in Ukraine.

Russia invaded the country on February 24 and the conflict is still ongoing. Well over one million refugees are estimated to have fled to neighbouring countries in Europe.

A joint statement from tennis' governing bodies on Tuesday explained that the campaign is not just about donations.

"The seven bodies will also signal support via their social and digital platforms by prominently featuring the Ukraine ribbon icon, with everyone in the tennis ecosystem encouraged to use the hashtag #TennisPlaysforPeace," it read.

"In addition, physical ribbons will be distributed for ATP and WTA players to wear at the upcoming BNP Paribas Open tournament in Indian Wells."

Last week, the ITF banned Russian and Belarusian teams from competing at the Davis Cup or the Billie Jean King Cup. Russia are the holders of each title.

The ATP and WTA, meanwhile, allowed Russian and Belarusian athletes to carry on competing, but only under neutral banners.

That includes ATP world number one Daniil Medvedev and WTA world number three Aryna Sabalenka.

New world number one Daniil Medvedev says Friday's Mexican Open semi-final against Rafael Nadal is his "chance to get my revenge" after last month's epic Australian Open defeat.

Medvedev progressed to the final four in Acapulco on Thursday with a routine 6-2 6-3 victory over Yoshihito Nishioka, while Nadal triumphed 6-0 7-6 (7-5) over Tommy Paul to set up their semi-final meeting.

The Russian's win capped a fine day after Novak Djokovic's loss to Jiri Vesely at the Dubai Tennis Championships meant he would next week become the new world number one for the first time in his career.

Before then, however, Medvedev must take on Nadal in Acapulco, with the pair having not faced off since last month's epic Australian Open decider, where the Spanish fought back from two set downs to clinch a record-breaking 21st major title.

"It’s always special to play against him,” Medvedev said following his win over Nishioka. “Kind of a chance to get my revenge.

“I have to learn from the best, which is him, Roger [Federer], Novak [Djokovic], Andy [Murray]. Always when they were losing a tough fight, they were trying to get their revenge. Sometimes they managed to do it, sometimes not. That’s what I’m going to try to do if I play Rafa."

Medvedev revealed he did not realise that Djokovic's loss would mean he would become number one until he started receiving congratulatory messages on Thursday.

"It’s not easy to play a match when you get this news during the day," Medvedev said.

"The first goal for me was to still win today because I’m here to try to win every match I play. But it’s definitely some great news."

Nadal was full of praise for the new world number one, admitting his excitement at their re-match.

The Spaniard prevailed in five hours and 28 minutes over Medvedev in Melbourne, winning 2-6 6-7 (5-7) 6-4 6-4 7-5 and was ready for the re-match.

"Everybody knows how difficult it is to play against Daniil," Nadal said after Thursday's win over Paul.

"I know I have to play at my highest level if I want to have any chance, and that's what I'm going to try. I have to play my game.

"Everybody knows how difficult the final was in Australia. Tomorrow is going to be another battle.

"I know he's playing well, plenty of confidence... I am excited to play that match."

Novak Djokovic welcomed the "positive" reception he has received from his fellow players, after making his first appearance since missing the Australian Open.

Djokovic, whose decision not to be vaccinated against COVID-19 caused him to be deported from Australia on the eve of the year's first grand slam, eased to a 6-3 6-3 win over Lorenzo Musetti in just 74 minutes at the Dubai Tennis Championships.

Djokovic spoke publicly about his vaccination status for the first time in a BBC interview last week, while rival Andy Murray, who has spoken about his support for vaccination on numerous occasions, said that he "didn't like seeing" Djokovic's ordeal in Australia after his own win in Dubai.

Serbia's 20-time Grand Slam winner says that most of his fellow professionals have been supportive upon his return to action.

"So far here most of the players that I’ve seen – I haven’t seen too many players – but most of the players that I've seen have been positive and welcoming", he said after his round-of-32 win.

"It's nice to see, obviously. I can't say that was the case in Australia. It was a little bit strange. But here, it's gone well so far."

The 34-year-old impressed against Musetti, serving five aces, winning 71 per cent of his second serves (17 out of 24) and saving each of the seven break points he faced during his first outing of the year, and Djokovic was also pleased with the reception he received from the fans in Dubai, as well as with his performance. 

"I couldn't ask for a better reception," he added.

"It's been a while since I played, and I couldn't think of a better place to kick-start the season. Thank you for the reception and for welcoming me on court the way you did.

World number one Novak Djokovic has praised Rafael Nadal for his "incredible" triumph by winning last month's Australian Open after his own deportation forced him to miss the event.

Nadal moved beyond Djokovic with his record-breaking 21st Grand Slam title in Melbourne with a five-set victory over Daniil Medvedev in the final.

Djokovic was unable to compete in Melbourne due to his vaccination status, deported amid an ugly saga after arriving in Melbourne expecting to be permitted to play.

The Serbian, who returned to the ATP Tour on Monday with a 6-3 6-3 win over Lorenzo Musetti at the Dubai Tennis Championships, was gracious in praising Nadal, who had a nagging foot injury dog him late last year.

"I think it was four, five months ago that he was on the crutches and now he's winning a slam. It's incredible," Djokovic told reporters after beating Musetti.

"I've got tons of respect for him. I don't want to take anything away from his victory, me not participating in the tournament regardless."

The Serbian was pressed on missing the Australian Open and added: "Of course, it wasn't a pleasant feeling for me leaving the country the way I did and watching the tournament from far away."

Djokovic will play either Karen Khachanov or Alex de Minaur in the second round in Dubai, while Nadal is competing at the Mexican Open, with a match against Denis Kudla on Tuesday.

World number one Novak Djokovic has praised Rafael Nadal for his "incredible" triumph by winning last month's Australian Open after his own deportation forced him to miss the event.

Nadal moved beyond Djokovic with his record-breaking 21st Grand Slam title in Melbourne with a five-set victory over Daniil Medvedev in the final.

Djokovic was unable to compete in Melbourne due to his vaccination status, deported amid an ugly saga after arriving in Melbourne expecting to be permitted to play.

The Serbian, who returned to the ATP Tour on Monday with a 6-3 6-3 win over Lorenzo Musetti at the Dubai Tennis Championships, was gracious in praising Nadal, who had a nagging foot injury dog him late last year.

"I think it was four, five months ago that he was on the crutches and now he's winning a slam. It's incredible," Djokovic told reporters after beating Musetti.

"I've got tons of respect for him. I don't want to take anything away from his victory, me not participating in the tournament regardless."

The Serbian was pressed on missing the Australian Open and added: "Of course, it wasn't a pleasant feeling for me leaving the country the way I did and watching the tournament from far away."

Djokovic will play either Karen Khachanov or Alex de Minaur in the second round in Dubai, while Nadal is competing at the Mexican Open, with a match against Denis Kudla on Tuesday.

World number one Novak Djokovic has praised Rafael Nadal for his "incredible" triumph by winning last month's Australian Open after his own deportation forced him to miss the event.

Nadal moved beyond Djokovic with his record-breaking 21st Grand Slam title in Melbourne with a five-set victory over Daniil Medvedev in the final.

Djokovic was unable to compete in Melbourne due to his vaccination status, deported amid an ugly saga after arriving in Melbourne expecting to be permitted to play.

The Serbian, who returned to the ATP Tour on Monday with a 6-3 6-3 win over Lorenzo Musetti at the Dubai Tennis Championships, was gracious in praising Nadal, who had a nagging foot injury dog him late last year.

"I think it was four, five months ago that he was on the crutches and now he's winning a slam. It's incredible," Djokovic told reporters after beating Musetti.

"I've got tons of respect for him. I don't want to take anything away from his victory, me not participating in the tournament regardless."

The Serbian was pressed on missing the Australian Open and added: "Of course, it wasn't a pleasant feeling for me leaving the country the way I did and watching the tournament from far away."

Djokovic will play either Karen Khachanov or Alex de Minaur in the second round in Dubai, while Nadal is competing at the Mexican Open, with a match against Denis Kudla on Tuesday.

Former world number one Andy Murray did not like how Novak Djokovic was treated in Australia but says the 20-time major winner must live with the consequences of his decisions.

Murray and Djokovic both progressed through the first round at the Dubai Tennis Championships on Monday.

The Serbian's 6-3 6-3 win over Lorenzo Musetti marked his first on the ATP Tour in 2022, coming in the wake of his deportation from Australia due to his vaccination status ahead of the first major of the calendar year.

It remains unclear if Djokovic will be permitted to compete at this year's other majors - the French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open - given he remains unvaccinated.

"Like I said at the time, I don't agree with his decision. I think it would be a lot easier for him, obviously, if he was to get vaccinated," Murray told reporters after beating Australian Christopher O'Connell 6-7 (4-7) 6-3 7-5 in Dubai.

"But I also didn't like seeing him in the situation that he was in Australia as someone that I respect and have known since I was a child. I didn't like seeing that.

"There is consequences to the decisions he's made just now. He obviously has to accept that. But I don't think it's great for tennis if our best player is not competing in the major events."

Djokovic admitted after his win over Musetti that, as it stands, he cannot enter the United States to compete at next month's prestigious Indian Wells Masters, let alone the US Open.

The world number one added that he was hopeful the situation may change "in the next few weeks".

Rafael Nadal would "welcome" seeing Novak Djokovic play at future grand slam tournaments if he is granted permission to do so unvaccinated against COVID-19.

World number one Djokovic has courted controversy for his views on being jabbed and was last month deported from Australia on the eve of the Australian Open.

Djokovic has confirmed he is willing to miss future slams after stating he was prioritising his right to choose what to put into his body above his sporting ambitions.

In Djokovic's absence, Nadal became Australian Open champion and now has 21 titles – the most for a male player.

Nadal believes that any further omissions from Djokovic would only be harmful to the Serbian's chances of history not the slams themselves, but he would have no issue with his rival playing in the sport's biggest tournaments.

Speaking ahead of his return to the ATP Tour in Acapulco, Nadal said: "It will affect Novak's [grand slam] history if he can't play.

"It will affect him, not the grand slams themselves. Whoever wins the most slams – it will be what it will be. Everyone takes their own decisions and must live with them.

"In that sense, hopefully the pandemic subsides and we stop having so many deaths around the world and this horror ends, and we can return to normality – not for Novak but for the world in general.

"There are many people that have suffered, but if Novak can play the grand slams unvaccinated, then he is welcome."

 

Nadal defeated Daniil Medvedev in an epic Melbourne showpiece to become the first man to 21 slams, but he says the achievement has not changed his life.

"Absolutely nothing has changed having 21 slams, I won't lie to you," he added.

"From 20 to 21 there is not a very large difference. Life goes on exactly the same. The only thing that has changed is that now I play tennis, which a few months ago I couldn't.

"I am very happy for everything that happened in Australia, it was very unexpected, especially before the tournament started. In my life, nothing has changed. No title is going to change what is important in my life, which are other things.

"Already, at 35 years old, I have a lot of experiences behind me, of successes and bad moments and these sensations already help me to live in a more calm and different way."

Novak Djokovic says he will play at whatever tournament will have him as he gears up to make his return to the ATP Tour.

The men's world number one has not played a competitive match since early December and was last month deported from Australia on the eve of the Australian Open.

That decision was a result of Djokovic opting not to join the majority of his tennis peers in getting vaccinated against COVID-19 and amid controversy over how he handled getting the virus himself in December.

Speaking to the BBC in a recent interview, Djokovic stated he was prioritising his right to choose what to put into his body above his sporting ambitions and confirmed he is willing to miss further grand slams if necessary.

With COVID restrictions still in place in many countries, Djokovic acknowledges his options to play are limited.

"I just have to follow the rules. You know, whatever tournament that I'm able to play, I will be trying to get to that country and play the tournament," Djokovic said ahead of facing Lorenzo Musetti in round one of the Dubai Tennis Championships.

"Obviously, I'm not intending to play the full schedule and that wasn't also my intention, as you brought it up and my goal prior to this season or the season before, and I was trying to aim to play my best at the grand slams and some of the 1000 events we have, of course, and playing for my country, those were the biggest motivations that I had in terms of the scheduling. 

"Right now, the situation is obviously different for me. So, I really can't choose right now. It's really about where I can go and play. So, wherever I have an opportunity, I'll be using probably that opportunity and going to play because this is what I do, it's what I love to do still. 

"And I have support from my family and my team is still there with me and that's what's important for me because obviously it was not easy for anyone in my surroundings to go through these kinds of circumstances and situations that we have been through.

"But it's very exciting to have everyone together here with me. And in Dubai, we're back on the tour and then we'll play this tournament and we'll see how it goes further down the line."

Several stars backed the decision for Djokovic to be barred from playing in Melbourne, with most noting that he had not followed the rules in order to do so.

But the Serbian says he has been received warmly ahead of his return to the ATP Tour.

"I haven't seen too many players, but the players that I've seen have been positive and welcoming," he added.

"And it's nice to see obviously. I can't say that was the case in Australia. It was a little bit strange, but here it's well so far."

Novak Djokovic has said missing grand slams including the French Open and Wimbledon will be "the price I am willing to pay" for resisting the COVID-19 vaccine.

Last month, the world number one and 20-time grand slam winner was deported from Australia on the eve of the Australian Open after his entry visa to the country was cancelled.

That stemmed from Djokovic refusing to join the overwhelming majority of fellow tennis stars in being vaccinated against coronavirus, and amid controversy over how he handled getting the virus himself in December.

In a new interview with the BBC, Djokovic said he was prioritising his right to choose what to put into his body above his sporting ambitions.

The 34-year-old Serbian declared his stance is likely to keep him sidelined for "most of the tournaments" at present.

Djokovic is set to make his return to the court at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships later this month, with vaccination not a requirement. He has been included on the entry list for next month's Indian Wells Open, but that is a tournament he may have to sit out.

He confirmed in the BBC interview that he has still yet to be vaccinated, though did not entirely rule out the prospect in the future.

"I have not," he said. "I understand and support fully the freedom to choose whether you want to get vaccinated or not."

Prior to entering Australia, where he was obliged to confirm his status, it was only widely assumed that Djokovic had not been inoculated.

Now he is keen to "speak up ... and justify certain things", adding: "So 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.

"And vaccinations are probably the biggest effort that was made on behalf of the planet. I fully respect that, but I've always represented and always supported the freedom to choose what you put into your body. For me that is essential. It's really the principle of understanding what is right and what is wrong for you.

"And me, as an elite professional athlete, I've always carefully reviewed and assessed everything that comes in, from the supplements, food, the water that I drink or sports drinks. Anything really that comes into my body as a fuel.

"Based on all the information that I got, I decided not to take the vaccine as of today. I keep my mind open because we are all trying to find collectively a best possible solution to end COVID. Nobody really wants to be in this kind of situation that we've been in collectively for two years."

Djokovic is the reigning French Open and Wimbledon champion and, after Rafael Nadal's Australian Open triumph, he has been bumped down to joint second on the all-time men's grand slam list. Missing majors at this stage of his career could be a crushing blow to Djokovic's hopes of finishing top of that pile.

"I'm part of a very global sport that is played every single week in a different location, so I understand the consequences of my decision, and one of the consequences of my decision was not going to Australia, and I was prepared not to go," Djokovic said.

"I understand that not being vaccinated today I am unable to travel to most of the tournaments at the moment. That is the price I am willing to pay."

He looked to disassociate himself from the anti-vax community by saying he had "never said I am part of that movement" and declaring that was a "wrong conclusion" to draw.

At the same time, Djokovic concurred when asked if he was willing to sacrifice the chance to be seen as the greatest player of all time, and to travel to Roland Garros and the All England Club this year.

"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," Djokovic said.

"I say that everyone has a right to choose to act or say whatever they feel is appropriate for them."

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