Novak Djokovic in action at the 2020 Australian Open.
Hailed as one of the greatest tennis players of all time, Novak Djokovic is at the center of a new storm after being granted a controversial exemption from having a Covid-19 vaccine in order to compete in the Australian Open .
Upon arriving in Melbourne on Wednesday, the 34-year-old was unable to enter the country immediately after a dispute arose over his papers.
AFP Sport looks back on the incidents that marked the career of the world number one and 20 times Grand Slam champion:
Djokovic saw his 2020 US Open title hopes dashed when he was sensationally disqualified from his final round of 16 game against Pablo Carreno Busta after accidentally hitting a female linesman in the throat with a ball .
The Serbian had grown exasperated after dropping out of serve during a game played on an empty Arthur Ashe pitch where fans were banned due to the pandemic.
“This whole situation has left me really sad and empty,” Djokovic said in a statement.
“I checked on the linesman and the tournament told me thank goodness she was feeling good. I am extremely sorry for causing her such stress. So unintentional. So bad.”
Amid the pandemic in 2020 and with the closure of professional tennis, Djokovic organized the Adria Tour, a series of exhibition events in the Balkans.
However, the tournament was scrapped in Zadar, Croatia after Bulgarian player Grigor Dimitrov tested positive for coronavirus.
Djokovic and his wife Jelena as well as fellow players Viktor Troicki and Borna Coric have also tested positive.
Players have also come under heavy criticism for dancing and kissing at a nightclub.
When Djokovic arrived in Melbourne for the 2021 Australian Open, he sparked another storm for posting a list of requests that allegedly included players receiving private homes with tennis courts.
“Djokovic is a tool,” Australia player Nick Kyrgios replied on Twitter.
Djokovic has long been accused of exaggerating injuries in matches.
At the 2008 US Open, he took two medical timeouts in a grueling five-set victory over Tommy Robredo.
Quarterfinal opponent Andy Roddick then mocked Djokovic’s injuries, including “two ankle injuries, bird flu and SARS!”
Djokovic beat the American and hit back during his post-game interview on the pitch.
“Well, obviously Andy was saying I had 16 injuries in the last game… and obviously I didn’t,” he said.
At the 2020 French Open, defeated quarter-final rival Carreno Busta was dismayed to see the coach called in to deal with the Serbian.
“Whenever a game gets tough he calls for medical assistance,” said the Spaniard.
At the 2021 Australian Open, US player Taylor Fritz was equally scathing after Djokovic needed five sets to win his third round clash.
Djokovic said he was suffering from abdominal tension.
“If he was really, really hurt, he wouldn’t have continued to play,” said Fritz.
Djokovic went on to win a ninth Australian Open title.
Djokovic was criticized when he claimed that it was possible to change the composition of water and food through positive thinking.
In an online exchange with “wellness guru” Chervin Jafarieh, the world number one said, “I have seen people and I know people who, through energetic transformation, through the power of prayer , thanks to the power of gratitude, manage to transform the most toxic food or the most polluted water, into the most healing water.
“Because water reacts and scientists have proven that molecules in water react to our emotions to what is said.”
Former player and respected television expert Mary Carillo told The Tennis Channel that she hopes Djokovic will back down on his claims.
“I am very disturbed that Djokovic and this other guy are saying that you can turn toxic water into clean water,” she said. “It’s a dangerous thing.”