Novak Djokovic to miss Miami Open due to COVID vaccination status, tournament says
Tennis champion Novak Djokovic is set to miss his second U.S. tennis tournament this year after being denied entry to the country for not being vaccinated against COVID-19.
Djokovic, 35, will miss the Miami Open, which begins on March 22, according to tournament director James Blake confirmed at the Tennis Channel on Friday. Djokovic has won the Miami Open six times, including three consecutively. The last victory dates back to 2016.
Blake said tournament organizers spoke with federal officials and did their best to secure an exception to US policy, which bars unvaccinated international travelers from entering the United States.
“Obviously we are one of the best tournaments in the world, we would like to have the best players who can play,” Blake told Tennis Channel. “We did everything we could. We tried to talk to the government, but it’s not up to us.”
Some, like Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, are calling on President Biden to remove the vaccination requirement and allow the Serbian athlete to compete in US tournaments again.
At a press conference earlier this month, DeSantis joked that he would be driving a boat from the Bahamas to Miami to bring Djokovic to the tournament.
“It poses no risk to the United States, no risk to the State of Florida and no risk to Miami,” the governor said at the time.
A spokesperson for the US Tennis Association told The Associated Press on Saturday that they are “very hopeful” that Djokovic can play at the US Open, which begins on August 28.
“Policies regarding access to the United States are determined by the White House. We are hopeful that the policy preventing Novak Djokovic from entering the United States will be rescinded or lapsed in the near future,” Chris Widmaier said. “There are no COVID-19 restrictions in place at the US Open for any player, fan or other participant. Novak, one of our sport’s great champions, would be welcome to attend the 2023 US Open.”
Djokovic is currently tied with Rafael Nadal for the most career Grand Slam titles of all time, with 22. In February, he broke the record for the most time spent by a professional tennis player at the first place in the ATP rankings after winning the men’s singles title at the Australian Open in January – a tournament he was kicked out of in 2022 for not being vaccinated.