The US Open has seemingly slammed the door on Novak Djokovic to compete at the final grand slam of the season despite the Serbian star being named on the tournament’s entry list.
Fresh off his Wimbledon triumph, Djokovic was not kidding himself when asked about whether he would participate in the US.
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The US currently requires non-citizens to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19, while Djokovic had repeatedly stated he is not and will not take the vaccine.
“I’m not vaccinated and I’m not planning to get vaccinated so the only good news I can have is them removing the mandated green vaccine card or whatever you call it to enter United States or exemption,” the 35-year-old said.
“I don’t know. I don’t think exemption is realistically possible. If that is possibility, I don’t know what exemption would be about. I don’t know. I don’t have much answers there.
“I think it’s just whether or not they remove this in time for me to get to the USA.”
Despite naming him on its entry list, the US Open said this was not a hint about an exemption, rather just process.
“Per the Grand Slam Rule Book, all eligible players are automatically entered into the men’s and women’s singles main draw fields based on ranking 42 days prior to the first Monday of the event,” a statement from the US read.
“The US Open does not have a vaccination mandate in place for players, but it will respect the US government’s position regarding travel into the country for unvaccinated non-US citizens.”
Djokovic was also named on the Western & Southern Open entry list, who also reiterated he would be unlikely to play via Fox19.
“The United States government requires all non-citizens and nonresidents to present a certificate of full vaccination from a CDC approved vaccine to enter the country,” the statement read.
“As an ATP 1000, it is automatic entry for men’s players. He did indicate at Wimbledon he is not vaccinated. However, should the United States policy change, he could then opt to play.”
On July 19, the US had more than 160,000 new Covid cases and more than 500 deaths.
Although this is a long way from its peak when the country surged to more than one million new cases and 3000 deaths a day, the numbers are still worrying and the US is unlikely to change its stance.
Djokovic’s coach Goran Ivanisevic said there was a better chance for him to win next week’s Croatia Open than for Djokovic to play at Flushing Meadows.
“I am more optimistic that I will win Umag if I get an invitation from Tomislav (Poljak, tournament director), than Djokovic will triumph at the US Open,” he said.
‘Fiasco’: Americans fight for Novak
But it hasn’t stopped fans fighting for Djokovic to be allowed entry to compete at the US Open as 18,000 fans have signed an online petition.
Former World No. 1 John McEnroe called for the US to allow Djokovic to play.
“We have to sort this out,” the seven-time Major champion told Tennis365. “Djokovic needs to play at the US Open. Please, someone work out how we make this happen because we need this incredible champion there.
“Novak hasn’t gotten the credit he deserves, he is a class act. I don’t agree with his decision not to get vaccinated, but I respect it. He is one of the fittest guys in the world and everything he puts into his body, he is watching carefully.
“It’s unfortunate that it’s come to this situation where it has been a train wreck for him. A total debacle. To the point where he way he was thrown out of Australia, are you kidding me?
“The way that all played out was just horrible, so I respect him even more that he has overcome these things. He has to be the most mentally tough player I’ve ever seen on a tennis court.”
Former United Nations Assistant Secretary-General Ramesh Thakur also weighed in, calling for Americans to allow Djokovic to play.
Thakur, who is the Director of the Center for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament at the Australian National University, also slammed Australia’s deportation of Djokovic as “petty, vindictive and an example of medical tyranny”.
“I would like to see Americans reject a repeat of the fiasco for the US Open but am not holding my breath,” Thakur said in a column for The Brownstone Institute.
Djokovic was deported from Australia in January and has been strong in his opposition to the vaccine.
His Australian drama began when Djokovic’s entry visa was cancelled as he tried to enter the country for the Australian Open, just hours after he had touted his “exemption permission” on Instagram as he boarded a flight to Australia.
Then Prime Minister Scott Morrison revealed Djokovic never had an exemption in the first place which was the beginning of the long ordeal.
Djokovic won the first court battle, which overturned his visa cancellation but a decision by then Immigration Minister Alex Hawke cancelled his visa “on health and good order grounds”.
Djokovic was then deported from the country on the eve of the Australian Open.
Speaking last week, Djokovic said he would want to return to Australia in the future.
“Hopefully in January I can be there because I want to be there, and I also want to be in New York. I want to be in America, I want to be everywhere I can possibly play,” Djokovic said.
“I am a professional tennis player, I don’t go into politics or anything else because that doesn’t interest me.
“I have my stance and I am a proponent for freedom to choose what is best for you. I respect everything and everybody, and at least I expect people to respect my decision.
“If I have permission, I’ll be there. If I don’t, I won’t be there – it’s not the end of the world.”
Another big name added to the entry list was Serena Williams.
Williams, who won the first of her six New York titles in 1999, remains frustratingly one Grand Slam short of Margaret Court’s record of 24.
The American star won the last of her 23 majors at the 2017 Australian Open while pregnant. Her most recent US Open title triumph was in 2014.
Former world number one Williams only returned to singles action at Wimbledon last month after a year on the injury sidelines.