Serbian officials say it would be ‘crazy’ to send Djokovic back to the Australian Open in 2018

In a country where people are notoriously sensitive to the spread of the Zika virus, Serbia’s health minister says it would be medically “crazy” to send the top-ranked tennis player, Novak Djokovic, back to the hard courts of Melbourne to play the Australian Open at the end of the year.

Vlatko Andonovski told Vecernje Novosti that Djokovic would need to take two vaccines against the mosquito-borne virus, one before training and one after he’d returned from South America, to combat the lingering effects of his long layoff from Djokovic since February.

Although Djokovic has always taken the same precautions when playing in the Australian Open since he first arrived Down Under in 2007, Andonovski said that the Health Ministry now felt compelled to warn the public after a tour involving the Serb appeared to show how common it was for players in Melbourne to get Zika.

Djokovic plans to play in the upcoming Qatar Open, though the World Health Organization says it is now advising all travelers to avoid playing in warm weather states.

It is also dangerous for the next elite player — Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Andy Murray — who are all due to return from long layoffs.

“I don’t want to ask anyone to step up and become the best player in the world,” Andonovski said. “They will all make decisions on whether to play or not, and it’s up to them.”

Djokovic, who had begun to find his form on clay earlier this year, has not played since he fell at the quarterfinals of the French Open in June after nearly seven months out injured.

It’s hard not to speculate that he may have now been unable to shake off the virus and decide to defend his Wimbledon title and perhaps his French Open crown before the Melbourne tournament kicks off in January.

More than 1,500 pregnant women and their partners tested positive for Zika in Colombia this week, with 40 coming from the New York metropolitan area alone.

Read the full story at The Guardian.


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