NEW YORK, NEW YORK – SEPTEMBER 10: Novak Djokovic of Serbia celebrates winning match point to defeat … [+] Alexander Zverev of Germany during their Men’s Singles semifinal match on Day Twelve of the 2021 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 10, 2021 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)
Novak Djokovic, who is unvaccinated against Covid-19, withdrew from this week’s tournament at Indian Wells after being denied entry to the United States, the tournament announced Sunday night.
He also won’t be permitted to play in the Miami Open later this month because unvaccinated foreigners are not allowed to fly into the U.S.
Florida Sen. Rick Scott wrote on social media on Friday that Homeland Security turned down the world No. 1’s vaccine waiver request and then asked that President Joe Biden intervene in the situation.
“Novak’s situation is obviously frustrating for us,” Tommy Haas, the Indian Wells tournament director, told Matt Futterman of The New York Times before Djokovic withdrew
“We want the best tennis player in the world to be here. H’s writing me, he wants to be here. So of course, you’re like, OK, let’s try to make this happen. How can we figure this out that’s going to be realistic? But at the end of the day, unfortunately, that’s not in our hands and that’s what’s frustrating.”
Georgian player Nikoloz Basilashvili has taken Djokovic’s place in the draw.
Speaking to reporters on Friday after his defeat against Daniil Medvedev in Dubai, the Australian Open champion said he was “still waiting for the news from America.”
He added: “If there’s no America, I guess I’ll play clay. Monte Carlo is probably the next tournament. If that’s the case, I’ll take some time off, I’ll prepare.”
U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Geoff Freeman issued the following statement on the news.
“America’s outdated vaccine policy for international visitors is an unforced error that is contributing to an $80 billion loss in foreign traveler spending,” he said. “Novak Djokovic is merely one of millions deterred from visiting the United States due to a well-intended but antiquated policy. It is well past time for the United States to join with its peers in Europe, Australia and elsewhere and remove pandemic vaccine requirements for our inbound travelers.”
John McEnroe said last month it would be “absurd” if Djokovic wasn’t granted an exemption to play in the U.S.
“It would be absurd if he couldn’t play Indian Wells or Miami or any other tournament in the U.S.,” McEnroe, the seven-time Grand Slam singles champion and ESPN analyst, said on a conference call in response to a question from this reporter.
“It’s absurd they threw him out of Australia last year,” he added. “I have had my vaccines, I respect that he’s chosen not to do it. I would’ve done it, but that’s a whole other issue….He played [the U.S. Open] in 2021 and then wasn’t allowed to play in 2022, someone explain that to me. And now he’s still not permitted to play, I mean it’s absurd.”
Patrick McEnroe, also an ESPN analyst and the former U.S. Davis Cup captain, said he hopes Djokovic is permitted to play the “Sunshine Swing.”
“I hope he does get an exemption,” he said. “I hope he can get into the country to play. I mean, I’m no doctor or no expert but it does seem like we’re past most of the pandemic, knock on wood.
“He’s able to go to any other country to play at this point and my understanding is that the President [Biden] has announced that many of these regulations will be withdrawn I believe in May. Whether or not Novak’s able to gt the exemption before that is up in the air.”
Djokovic won his record-tying 22nd Grand Slam title at the Australian Open in January and is now tied with is longtime rival Rafael Nadal, who will also miss Indian Wells and Miami due to a leg injury. The two will each seek their 23rd major title at Roland Garros in May, providing Nadal is healthy enough to defend his title and seek a 15th French Open crown.
“This is a historic time in our sport obviously, him at Rafa both at 22, it’s pretty interesting, if you ask me,” McEnroe said of Djokovic missing the upcoming events. “So it would be a damn shame.”
(This story was updated on March 6.)