Tennis·Bring It In

Djokovic saga overshadows major storylines at Australian Open

On the latest episode of the CBC Sports video series Bring It In, host Morgan Campbell is joined by Meghan McPeak and Dave Zirin to discuss the seemingly endless Novak Djokovic vaccination saga, and how it has overshadowed some important storylines at the ongoing Australian Open.

CBC Sports' Bring It In panel discusses Serbian tennis star's impact on 'Happy Slam'

A screen capture from AFPTV shows Serbia's Novak Djokovic, centre, after disembarking from a plane in Dubai on Monday. (AFPTV/AFP via Getty Images)

On the latest episode of the CBC Sports video series Bring It In, host Morgan Campbell is joined by Meghan McPeak and Dave Zirin to discuss the seemingly endless Novak Djokovic vaccination saga, and how it has overshadowed some important storylines at the ongoing Australian Open.

While the Serbian tennis star lost his final legal battle to defend his title at the tournament and avoid deportation for being unvaccinated against COVID-19, he continues to spark debate and distract from the rest of the tennis world — including the return of defending champion Naomi Osaka.

And now with Djokovic's plans of chasing his 21st Grand Slam title potentially put on hold again with the news he could also be barred from the French Open, it appears there are still more chapters to come if he remains unvaccinated.

"This isn't just a case of somebody who says, 'I don't want to take the vaccine and it's none of your business why.' This is the case of somebody actively trying to manipulate the process because he thinks he's just smarter than everybody else," Zirin said.

Rafael Nadal and other players at the tournament said they wished more attention was focused on tennis instead of the Djokovic news, and Tennis Australia released a statement on Monday saying they "recognize that recent events have been a significant distraction for everyone."

McPeak, like many, has grown tired of the situation.

"Why do we continue to waste our time on someone who continues to essentially try to make fun of our intelligence and think that he's smarter than everybody?" McPeak said.

WATCH | Bring It In panel discusses Djokovic deportation, Davies out with myocarditis:

COVID-19 in sport: Djokovic deported, Davies out with myocarditis | Bring It In

6 months ago
Duration 9:40
The Bring It In panel give their takes on the latest developments in the sports world related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Campbell argues that Djokovic only received his initial medical exemption from Tennis Australia and two medical panels because of his high profile and drawing power as the the world's No. 1-ranked men's tennis player.

"The fact is he sells a lot of tickets. Apparently he has a big fan base in Australia and so organizers were like, 'hey, bring it on,'" Campbell said.

Known as the "Happy Slam" due to players being rejuvenated and excited for the year's first Grand Slam tournament, the Australian Open has instead been overshadowed by Djokovic — despite all the positive storylines to follow.

"This could've been a very particularly happy Slam because look who's back: Naomi Osaka, only one of the great players alive coming back after her much publicized and very public and very brave wrangling with mental illness in the last year. [It's] great to have Osaka back," Zirin said.

Zirin also points out that the tournament was robbed of potentially seeing Djokovic duke it out with Nadal for a historic title, with Nadal making his much-anticipated return from a long injury hiatus. Djokovic is currently in a three-way tie with Roger Federer and Nadal for the men's record for Grand Slam titles at 20.

"He's taken the 'Happy Slam' and put a nice shadow over the entire thing," Zirin said.

"He's making no friends on the tennis tour right now."

In light of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the panel also discusses the National Football League presently being down to just a single Black head coach following the dismissals of Brian Flores from Miami and David Culley from Houston last week.

Campbell says that many Black coaches who work their way up the professional ladder are then unfairly overlooked for head coaching positions despite boasting the same accomplishments and accolades as many white candidates.

"A lot of these Black coaches who otherwise would be qualified are finding that the playing field is also shifting and tilting, and this is one the ways that coaching stays so white," Campbell said.

WATCH | Bring It In panel discusses lack of diversity among NFL head coaches:

The NFL currently has one black head coach, can this be fixed? | Bring It In

6 months ago
Duration 8:57
The Bring It In panel discusses the NFL’s head coaching diversity issues after the recent firings of Brian Flores and David Culley.

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