Greek tennis star Stefanos Tsitsipas has angered his own country’s government by refusing to take the coronavirus vaccine as he ‘sees no reason for someone in my age group to be vaccinated’.
The 23-year-old is currently the world No 3 and is tipped to be one of the sport’s biggest stars when the likes of Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer move on from the sport.
But after Tsitsipas raised concerns about the side-effects of getting jabbed – whilst also claiming it would be a ‘good thing’ for young people to get the virus to spread immunity – the Greek government claims the youngster’s status as a tennis star, not a scientist, makes his opinion invalid.
‘He has neither the knowledge, nor the studies, nor the research work, that would allow him to form an opinion about it,’ government spokesman Giannis Economou said during a press briefing.
Economou said that while world number three Tsitsipas ‘is a great athlete, what is at stake, however, is his ability to assess the need for vaccinations or whether the vaccine has been tested for a sufficient period of time.’
Stefanos Tsitsipas has angered the Greek government for his views on the Covid vaccine
The Greek government, led by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis (above), have slammed Tsitsipas’ views on getting jabbed
The tennis world has become split on the decision to get the jab, with the ATP Tour encouraging players to get protection against the virus and even offering incentives for those who do.
Players have had to train in bubbles at tournaments since the beginning of the Covid pandemic, with many stars complaining of difficult conditions, although authorities are keen for them to become innoculated to remove the logistical problems of having to isolate.
Djokovic has refused to reveal whether or not he will take the vaccine, but admitted he was pleased that the jab was not being forced on players, while Federer and Nadal have both thrown their support behind getting vaccined.
The 23-year-old claims there is no reason why someone his age should be getting the vaccine
Tennis stars Roger Federer (right) and Rafael Nadal (left) have supported the vaccine this year
Swiss icon Federer received his Pfizer jab in May, while Spaniard Nadal encouraged players to take the vaccine to help the sport escape from the ‘nightmare’ of Covid.
Tsitsipas, meanwhile, said his stance on the vaccine would remain the same unless the tennis authorities changed theirs.
‘No-one has made it a mandatory thing to be vaccinated. At some point I will have to, I’m pretty sure about it, but so far it hasn’t been mandatory to compete, so I haven’t done it, no,’ he said.
‘I’m young, under 25 category, for me the vaccine has not been tested enough, it is new. It has some side effects.
Tennis stars, such as Tsitsipas (above), have raised concerns about the Covid bubble
‘I personally know some people who have had them. I’m not against it, I just see no reason for someone in my age group to need to be vaccinated.’
Tsitsipas also claimed that young people under the age of 25 should be looking to build immunity by catching the virus and passing it on, despite his concerns about the vaccine’s side effects.
‘Everyone has the right to decide what they want to do. If you want to protect yourself with the vaccine, your problem, go and do it,’ he said. ‘For us young people, I think it is good to pass the virus, because we will build immunity. I do not see it as something bad.
‘As I said, it is not obligatory, everyone has the freedom to decide for themselves what is right and what is not. At some point we should all do it, I’m not saying the opposite.’
Tsitsipas is gearing up for the US Open on August 30 after taking part in the Cincinnati Masters after his shock first-round exit at Wimbledon – where he said he struggled after being forced to live in a Covid bubble.
‘I want to see a better version of the vaccine, which will give us more pluses than minuses,’ added the French Open runner-up.
However, Economou added on Thursday: ‘I would say that those who, through their excellent presence and performance in other areas, are also a point of reference for wider social groups, should be doubly careful in expressing such views.’
Tsitsipas, backed by his father and coach, wants to see a better version of the vaccine made
Tsitsipas’ father and coach Apostolos (right) claims athletes do not need to be vaccinated
Meanwhile, in an interview with Greek public television ERT on Thursday, Tsitsipas’s father and coach Apostolos backed his son’s decision.
‘Athletes have a strong enough immune system to deal with any challenge that may arise,’ he said.
‘They take the necessary measures, are in a controlled environment and do PCR and Antigen tests almost every day.’
Tsitipas and his camp are not the only major figures in tennis to reveal their doubts about the vaccine. In 2020, world No 1 Djokovic revealed he was opposed to taking the vaccine – unless it became compulsory to travel and compete.
World No 1 Novak Djokovic also revealed his opposition to the vaccine in April 2020
‘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,’ Djokovic said in a live Facebook chat in April 2020.
‘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.’
Later that year, Djokovic then caused an outbreak of the virus in his Adria Tour in Croatia and Serbia where players were not asked to social distance during the event.
Djokovic’s 2020 Adria Tour came under scrutiny after players were pictured out partying
Djokovic hosted raucous parties in Belgrade, which resulted in the tennis star and his wife testing positive for Covid.
Fellow tennis players Grigor Dimitrov, Borna Coric and Viktor Troicki were also diagnosed with the virus, with the former hit hard by his diagnosis – and at one point revealed he struggled to breathe.
Djokovic insisted he felt no guilt about hosting the non-socially distanced event during the opening months of the global pandemic, and has now asked to be seen as neither pro or anti-vaccine.
Read MOre; DailyMail