In January, Novak Djokovic appeared before a jury in Australia, asking for special permission to play tennis in the country while he was not vaccinated against Covid-19. After a final hearing, he was turned away.
Since then, countries such as France and Britain have relaxed travel restrictions, allowing Djokovic, who has contracted Covid-19 at least twice but has vehemently refused to get vaccinated, to compete. However, on Thursday, Djokovic was forced to withdraw from the US Open. He has not yet been vaccinated, and has not been allowed to come to New York.
The United States has lifted many of its coronavirus and travel restrictions, but unvaccinated foreigners are still barred from entering the country, leaving one of the biggest stars in men’s tennis unable to play in one of the year’s most important tournaments. .
“Unfortunately, I will not be able to travel to New York this time to participate in the US Open,” Djokovic wrote on Twitter On Thursday morning, hours before the tournament organizers chose matches for the tournament, which is scheduled to start on Monday. “I will remain in good shape and in a positive spirit and will wait for the opportunity to compete again,” he added.
In a statement on Djokovic’s decision to withdraw from the US Open On the morning of the day of the lotteryStacy Allister, tournament director, said it was “very unfortunate that he won’t be able to compete in the 2022 US Open”.
Djokovic is just one In the top row of men’s singles players to remain vulnerable. This decision, criticized by other game greats including Rafael Nadal, sparked a clash between his strong beliefs in personal freedom and a skepticism of well-established science against international public health policies and practices.
It has also turned Djokovic, not for the first time, into a lightning rod in the broader debate over Covid-19 restrictions. Long before scientists declared it safe to gather in large groups in 2020, he said The Tennis Show That Becomes Super Happened in Serbia, his homeland.
He has argued that vaccination should be a personal decision rather than a requirement to play, and earlier this year he said it is Ready to beat the Grand Slam tournaments And give up tournaments to remain invulnerable. At the Australian Open, with Djokovic absent, Nadal advanced in his intergenerational battle for the most Grand Slam titles in men’s singles.
Djokovic’s refusal to vaccinate sparked a political storm in January. While on a plane to Australia, he announced that he had done so Eligible for exemption to enter the country to play in the Australian Open, the first Grand Slam tournament of the year, as he recently recovered from Covid-19.
At the time, Djokovic was following the rules given by the tournament organizers, rules that were supposed to have been approved by state and federal government authorities. However, by the time his plane landed, he was The controversy has exploded on social media and reached the highest levels of the Australian government.
Immigration officials detained him at the airport and held him in a hotel for immigrants seeking asylum. After a development-filled ordeal, Djokovic eventually left the country without defending his singles title since 2021. He ended up with Judgment by a panel of three judges Which confirmed the Australian government’s decision to revoke Djokovic’s visa, sided with the administration of Scott Morrison, then prime minister, who said Djokovic’s fame threatens the country’s efforts to vaccinate its citizens.
Because under Australian law, anyone whose visa has been revoked cannot return for three years, Djokovic will need a special exemption to enter the country at next year’s Open.
After the defeat in Australia, Djokovic spent several weeks away from the game, then resumed playing where he could.
“I generally didn’t feel good,” he said of that time earlier this summer. “Mentally and emotionally, I wasn’t in a good place. I wanted to play, but at the same time when I went out on the field in Dubai, it was the first tournament of the year, I felt a lot of pressure and emotions happening. I wasn’t feeling myself on the court. I realized at that point that It will take some time, and that I have to be patient, and sooner or later I will bring myself to the optimal state, where I would like to be. ”
While many countries do not require the vaccination of foreigners, many still do, including the United States and Canada. Health officials said in part that people who have not been vaccinated Risk of hospitalization and death At much higher rates than vaccinated people.
“I’m not vaccinated and I don’t plan to be vaccinated, so the only good news I can get is removal of the mandatory green vaccination card or whatever you call it to enter the United States or exemption,” he said, adding, “I don’t think an exemption is realistically possible. If that is a possibility. I don’t know what an exemption is.”
The US Tennis Association said earlier this summer that it would not seek a waiver on Djokovic’s behalf. “The US Open does not have a vaccination mandate for players, but will respect the position of the US government regarding travel into the country for non-vaccinated non-US citizens,” the USTA said in a statement announcing the entry list for the tournament in July.
However, tournament officials and Djokovic’s team remained in contact throughout the summer.
Djokovic has won the men’s singles title at the US Open three times, most recently in 2018, but has long had a thorny relationship with the event. He is often booed and teased by fans who see him as a tennis villain and an intruder in the rivalry between Nadal and Roger Federer.
In 2020, Djokovic missed the tournament after hitting a ball in frustration, A judge hit a line unintentionally In the throat, in the first set of his fourth-round match. He quickly apologized and accepted the verdict.
Despite this, last year Djokovic finally achieved something that remained elusive while collecting trophies.
He entered the US Open with a chance to sweep all four Grand Slam titles in one year, something no man has accomplished since 1969. (Players were allowed to take part in the tournament last year once they tested negative.)
Djokovic reached the final, with Daniil Medvedev from Russia Multiply it in consecutive groups. But in the last matches, the fans rallied behind Djokovic, and the chants grew louder and louder, causing him to cry over the last change, when he sobbed on a towel.
“My heart is full of joy and I am the happiest man alive because you made me feel that way on the field,” he said during the award ceremony after the match. “I’ve never felt like this.”
Warm memories weren’t enough to convince Djokovic to get vaccinated, but they may have played a role in his withdrawal from the tournament in time. By withdrawing before the draw, Djokovic helped the organizers rearrange the rankings for the tournament without spoiling it.
Djokovic, 35, is giving up a chance to tie with Nadal for the most number of men’s singles Grand Slam titles. Nadal has 22 and Djokovic has 21.
While Djokovic has plenty of critics in and out of the game for his refusal to be vaccinated, he does have the support of some players, both current and former. John Isner of the United States called his uncompetitiveness ridiculous. Medvedev said on Thursday that he wishes Djokovic could play.
“It’s a joke if he’s not allowed here,” John McEnroe, ESPN commentator and four-time US Open singles champion, said on Wednesday.
“It was very unfortunate for him and for tennis,” said McEnroe, who was vaccinated and boosted. “It’s just a shame this whole year.”