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Djokovic hopeful for US Open but will not risk vaccination saga repeat

Australia would not allow Novak Djokovic to compete at the Australian Open due to his vaccination status back in January.

Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic reacts during an exhibition match, organised to mark the opening of a tennis court at the "Archaeological park of the Bosnian pyramid" near Visoko, north of Sarajevo, on July 13, 2022. (Photo by ELVIS BARUKCIC / AFP)

Novak Djokovic intends to compete at the US Open at the end of August, but will not risk a reoccurrence of the vaccination-related furore that saw him deported from Australia.

The Serbian lifted his seventh Wimbledon title earlier this month, moving level with Pete Sampras for the second-most wins at the All England Club, only behind Roger Federer (eight). Djokovic also returned to just one grand slam title behind Rafael Nadal’s record of 22, with the US Open that starts on 29 August the final headline act of the 2022 season.

While Djokovic enjoyed more Wimbledon success, it was only his second major of the year after the world number seven missed the Australian Open in January due to his refusal to be vaccinated. His insistence to not take the vaccination against Covid-19 also saw him miss the Indian Wells Masters in March, owing to the United States’ coronavirus rulings.

US stance on non-vaccinated travellers

The United States still does not allow unvaccinated foreigners to enter the country without an exemption – meaning Djokovic’s ability to appear in New York is in doubt. Despite expressing his hopes to feature at the hard-court major, Djokovic insisted he will not be willing to face a repeat of the ongoings in Australia in order to compete.

“I’m not going to go to America if I don’t have permission, so the Australian saga for me was not pleasant at all,” he said after opening a tennis complex in the Bosnian town of Visoko. “People still think I forced my way to Australia and tried to come in with no papers, permission or exemption – it is not true. That was proven in the court cases, so I would never go into a country where I didn’t have permission to travel. I would love to come back to Australia. I love Australia, I had my best Grand Slam results in that country. Hopefully I can be there in January because I want to be there, and I also want to be in New York. I want to be in America and everywhere I can possibly play.”

Djokovic remains hopeful for a change in policy in America given he has no intentions to take the vaccination, nor does he envisage an exemption coming. “I am a professional tennis player, I don’t go into politics or anything else because that doesn’t interest me,” he added. “I have my stance and I am a proponent for freedom to choose what is best for you. I respect everything and everybody, and I expect people to at least 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.”


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