NOVAK DJOKOVIC is preparing to defend his French Open title.
Novak Djokovic has spoken out about splitting with some of his sponsors in the wake of his Australian Open debacle earlier this year. And the Serbian has explained a call he had with the head of one of his main sponsors Lacoste, who are continuing to back him.
Djokovic arrived at the Australian Open in January ready to defend the title he had won in 2021. But he was sent to a state-run immigration facility upon touchdown and told would be deported as he hadn’t been vaccinated against COVID-19. After two appeals, the ace was ultimately sent packing and was unable to compete in the first Grand Slam of the year.
The furore resulted in a media frenzy as the 34-year-old dominated headlines around the world. And sponsors came under pressure to drop him. In March, Peugeot ended their long-term partnership with him, although his vaccination status was reportedly not the main reason for the split. Then in May, technology firm UKG decided against renewing their deal with the player after they had worked with him for three years.
And Djokovic has spoken about the partings. “There are things I cannot talk about before public statements are made,” Djokovic told Serbian reporters ahead of the French Open, which starts on Sunday. “My main sponsors stayed with me and I am grateful for it, but some sponsors I no longer have. That is all that I can say – it is not my place to evaluate whether somebody should have stayed with me or left me.”
Djokovic has worked with Lacoste since 2017. And he believes the brand have been empathetic towards him over the last few months. “We have been in regular contact, mostly Edoardo [Artaldi, one of Djokovic’s agents], but I have personally spoken with the head of Lacoste,” the veteran added. “They understood the whole situation, everything that was happening.
“As their global ambassador, I am important to them. But their position was not easy. They have told us that they have been under pressure from the media, from some clients that maybe weren’t happy with me staying with the company.
“Challenges always present themselves, so to say, but I think they made a good choice and I am grateful. I will try to represent the Lacoste brand just like I did up until now in the best possible way. After all, it is a brand with great tradition – one of the greatest in tennis. And I am proud to wear the crocodile on my shirt.”
Djokovic is preparing to compete at his 18th French Open and will be looking to get his hands on the title for the third time. Last year he was crowned champion after seeing off Stefanos Tsitsipas in the final.