Fellow pro defends Djokovic from ‘total bulls**t’ claims shared by tennis journo
A suggestion that Novak Djokovic was given the silent treatment by fellow professionals in Australia has been rejected by Ukrainian ace Sergiy Stakhovsky.
Djokovic has been seen practicing in recent days at the Melbourne Park venue of the Australian Open after being released from detention and having his visa restored by a federal court judge.
The world number one was filmed hitting at the iconic Rod Laver Arena just hours after winning his court case on Monday, and was back the following day and on Wednesday as he attempts to make up for lost time before the Australian Open main draw gets underway next week.
The continued presence of the unvaccinated Djokovic has triggered widespread debate – and no shortage of opprobrium – Down Under, and it was suggested in a tweet by tennis journalist Ben Rothenberg that the frosty reception extended to the Serb’s fellow pros.
“From someone in the [Australian Open] playing area: ‘[Djokovic] came to the gym before his hit. The place went silent with everyone staring. Talk about uncomfortable,’” tweeted the journalist, who has written for the likes of the New York Times.
"Not that Djokovic has no support from players, of course, but it’s an awkward vibe here," Rothenberg added in a separate tweet.
From someone in the #AusOpen player area:“[Djokovic] came to the gym before his hit. The place went silent with everyone staring. Talk about uncomfortable.”— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) January 11, 2022
But the implication that Djokovic was being snubbed was disputed by Kiev-born star Stakhovsky, who shot back on his own Twitter account.
“Total bs… was warming up for my match in the same gym. Find better gossipers,” replied the 36-year-old, sharing the original tweet.
Total bs .. was warming up for my match in the same gym. Find better gossipers🤷🏻♂️ https://t.co/em3wvb4QYq— Sergiy Stakhovsky (@Stako_tennis) January 11, 2022
Rothenberg responded that he was “shocked” that Stakhovsky wasn’t “picking up on social cues” – to which the former world number 31 replied, “Ouch Ben… are you getting upset?”
Ouch Ben.. are you getting upset ?— Sergiy Stakhovsky (@Stako_tennis) January 11, 2022
Rothenberg has been a vocal critic of Djokovic throughout his deportation saga, even posing the question as to whether the Serbian star may have contracted Covid on purpose as a way of gaining a medical exemption to enter the tournament.
...but this all also begs the question: around December 16, with only a month left until the #AusOpen began, what was Djokovic planning to do if he *didn't* get a positive test for Covid? Was that somehow his plan for getting into the #AusOpen? Contracting a disease? Truly odd.— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) January 8, 2022
Stakhovsky, meanwhile, failed in his bid to reach the Australian Open main draw as he went down in straight sets to American youngster J.J. Wolf in their Melbourne qualifier on Tuesday.
The Ukrainian – who has made headlines before for his views on gay players in women’s tennis – has reached the third round of a Grand Slam on six previous occasions, but the last of those came at the US Open in 2015 as he has since slipped to a lowly ATP ranking of 220 in the world.
Djokovic will be hoping he can line up to defend his title when the main action gets underway in Melbourne on January, although the nine-time champion is still sweating on the potential intervention of Australian Immigration Minister Alex Hawke in his case.
Djokovic received a medical exemption from Tennis Australia and Victoria state officials to compete based on recovery from a Covid infection in December, although federal forces deemed that insufficient reason to enter the country as the Serbian star is unvaccinated.
Djokovic’s court victory on Monday came after border officials at Melbourne Airport were deemed to have behaved “unreasonably” by not granting him more time to consult with legal specialists and tennis officials before canceling his visa in the early hours of Thursday last week.
However, the 20-time Grand Slam winner was forced to apologize on Wednesday when he admitted a member of his team had made a mistake when filling out an Australian travel declaration on his behalf.
It was stated that Djokovic had not traveled in the 14 days prior to his arrival in Melbourne, when in fact he had been in Serbia and then Spain.
Djokovic and his supporters will hope that the error does not work against him in his battle to remain in Australia.