Novak Djokovic handed huge blow as US Open releases statement on vaccination policy

Published on Jul 22, 2022 11:01 AM IST

Novak Djokovic's season has taken another massive blow after the US Open released statement on vaccination policy

Serbia's Novak Djokovic(REUTERS)
Serbia's Novak Djokovic(REUTERS)

Novak Djokovic's 2022 season got off to a poor start when he landed in Australia for the Australian Open, only to be deported and sent back to Serbia after a high-profile legal battle, with everyone from Australian politicians to former tennis players picking sides in the debate. His season has taken another massive blow after the US Open confirmed that Djokovic would not be allowed to compete in their event beginning on August 29, on the same grounds, and not allowed to enter the USA at all.

Djokovic's stance on refusing to be vaccinated against Covid-19 has been extremely contentious, ever since he made that decision public as early as the first lockdown in 2020 — many months before the vaccine even came into circulation. Not allowing foreign substances to enter his body is one of the tenets of the style of alternate living he vouches for, and while such a lifestyle has allowed him to remain an athlete in his prime even at the age of 36, it has received mass criticism for being a tool of misinformation, and putting himself and others at risk.

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The USTA, which governs the US Open, made clear that it was due to the American government's vaccination and border policies that this decision was being taken: they themselves do not have a policy against non-vaccinated individuals. Their statement read, "The US Open does not have a vaccination mandate in place for players, but it will respect the U.S. government’s position regarding travel into the country for unvaccinated non-U.S. citizens."

This means that Djokovic will not only miss the US Open, where he made the finals last year, but also the Masters 1000 tournament in Cincinnati, as well as in Canada, which has as staunch a vaccination policy.

Despite winning Wimbledon earlier this month, Djokovic saw his ranking fall to number 7 in the world due to their points ban, and will likely see it drop further: as it stands, the next major tournament Djokovic plays will be the 2023 French Open, unless vaccination mandates in Australia are loosened.

The US Open was a site of heartbreak for Djokovic, as he entered the tournament having won the first three majors of the year. Had he won the USO, he would have become the first player in the Open Era since Rod Laver to complete the calendar-year Grand Slam. He reached the finals, but following a gruelling semifinal against Alexander Zverev, he lost meekly in straight sets to Daniil Medvedev, the current world number one. He would have sought to correct his mistakes from last year, but unfortunately will now have to either drop his stance or whom the American government drops theirs.

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