John McEnroe launched into a bizarre rant about the Novak Djokovic deportation furore on Monday, hailing him for doing “whatever it takes” to win a record 21st grand slam and wrongly suggesting journalists invented the fact he broke coronavirus quarantine rules.
In a typically fiery outburst while appearing on ESPN to preview the Australian Open, McEnroe dubbed the 12-day saga “total BS” and “an absolute” joke.
The tennis legend also described Djokovic as “gutsy” for travelling to Australia without being vaccinated against coronavirus but had to be cut off and corrected on air when he cast doubt on the revelation the Serb carried out an interview and photoshoot with L’Equipe when he should have been self-isolating.
McEnroe branded it an “absolute joke what’s gone on the last 12 days”, saying: It’s sad the way it ended. I watched it play out live. I watched Saturday Night Live … the guy playing Joe Biden said. ‘I wanna know what the hell is going on with Novak Djokovic’. This is like two hours before they decided to deport him.”
Revealing he had texted the nine-time Australian Open champion during the saga, McEnroe added: “It’s total BS. If he decides not to have a vaccine and the Australian authorities say, ‘You cannot go down there, unless you’re vaccinated, end of story, it’s black or white.
“He decides whether or not he wants to do it. He’s got very strong beliefs. He’s entitled to those beliefs.
“The guys won it nine times. It was gutsy [to go] in way. I’ve got to hand it to him. I’ve got seven majors, he’s got 20, the reason he’s got a lot more than me is because he’s willing to go risk that, to go down there.
“You’re talking about a guy that was potentially about to break Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal’s record and that he was willing to go to these lengths – ‘I don’t want to get vaccinated but I’m going to do whatever it takes’.”
Addressing Djokovic’s failure to quarantine after testing positive for Covid-19 – something the Serb last week apologised for – McEnroe went on: “Here’s the other part that’s weird. Djokovic apparently… and listen, I’m a fan of Novak and I have a lot of respect for him… but supposedly he knew he had it, and then he flew back and went to Serbia and that’s not what you’re allowed to do.
“And then he met with some journalist, allegedly… that he spoke to a journalist, in Serbia I believe, I don’t know the exact details of the dates, but… is that proven, is that absolute fact?
“You know journalists have been known to make…”
He was then cut off and corrected before replying: “I see. Well that hurts. That hurts”.
McEnroe also denounced the Australian government after Djokovic was allowed to fly all the way to Australia after being granted a medical exemption before being told he was being refused entry.
He said: “Okay, let’s assume that he wasn’t going to play but then suddenly he got Covid and then he got an exemption and he can play. You can’t tell him after he flies all the way there.
“The idea that the government and these people weren’t in cahoots with each other. I’m sorry. I don’t buy into that one. They all knew what was going on.”