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.
Greece currently has vaccinated just over half of it’s population, with 51.9 per cent inoculated. The country has administered a total of 11.1m jabs, with 5.5m people having had both doses.
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.’
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.
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.
‘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.’