There are plenty of steps before it gets to this point, but the eventual return of tennis may not include Novak Djokovic. Speaking on a live Facebook chat Sunday, the top-ranked player expressed trepidation about being forced to go against his medical beliefs in order to play.
"Personally, I am opposed to vaccination, and I wouldn't want to be forced by someone to take a vaccine in order to be able to travel," he said. "But if it becomes compulsory, what will happen? I will have to make a decision. I have my own thoughts about the matter, and whether those thoughts will change at some point, I don't know."
"Hypothetically, if the season was to resume in July, August or September, though unlikely, I understand that a vaccine will become a requirement straight after we are out of strict quarantine, and there is no vaccine yet," Djokovic added.
All tennis events are suspended through July. Even the most optimistic timeline puts the development of a vaccine a year or 18 months in the future. Donald McNeil, who has been prescient about the pandemic, points out that the record for creating one is four years. Four years.
Let that sink in. There's a very real possibility we'll have to decide to move on without the safety net six, 12, or 36 months down the road. That'd be terrible for humanity, but a plus for Djokovic, who would be spared one tough decision.
Djokovic immediately skyrockets to the top of anti-vaxxer athletes, though it's far to assume there are some high-profile ones who share his thoughts. There is a multiverse in which they try to continue without getting the mandatory shot and it becomes another battle in the never-ending cultural war.