Will Novak Djokovic go to the United States without the vaccine?
And in Australia, the Serb is even planning to be rehabilitated by his fan, the country’s new prime minister
One of the best tennis players in history, Novak Djokovic, knows that we live in a turbulent world. Last year, the Serb won three majors in a row and set his sights on a Calendar Gold Slam, but ended up without even a Grand Slam. At the Tokyo Olympics, he lost the semifinals to Sasha Zverev, and at the US Open he lost in the deciding match to Daniil Medvedev. A few months later, the Serb found himself at the center of a huge scandal on the eve of the Australian Open. The reigning winner of the tournament and world ranking leader was sent to a covid hotel by the Green Continent authorities. After a lengthy court case, Djokovic, who refused on principle to be vaccinated against the coronavirus, did not manage to play in Melbourne. Six months later, however, he won the 21st major of his career, becoming a seven-time Wimbledon champion. A real roller coaster ride.
A favor to the president
Novak benefited financially from winning London, but lost out on the world rankings. We should remind that the reason was the attitude of the Wimbledon organizers that did not allow Russian and Belorussian tennis players to participate in the tournament. ATP responded by deciding not to add ranking points for the British Grand Slam Tournament. Djokovic, who had won all his previous four Wimbledon tournaments, plummeted from third place to seventh. And his prospects of returning to the top looked very pale. The Serb is not scheduled to play in July, and the World Tour will move to North America for August and half of September. Novak is barred from entering there. Or is he?
Serb is sometimes portrayed in the media as a hardheaded anti-vaxxer, but that’s not really the case. It’s not even directly related to COVID-19, but Djokovic’s beliefs were formed a long time ago. He was once laughed at on the tour for having a “spiritual guru” Pepe Imas on his staff, even earlier he cooperated with an alternative medicine specialist Igor Chetojevic. In general, Novak always had not too conventional, if not to say anti-scientific, ideas about the world. As Djokovic himself explained, he has nothing against covid vaccination, but he is deeply convinced that it should be completely voluntary.
But the U.S. authorities, as well as earlier Australian ones, have a diametrically opposite viewpoint. According to the U.S. government order, all foreigners arriving in the country must be vaccinated against the coronavirus. There are almost no exceptions to the rule.
- I haven’t been vaccinated and I don’t plan to be,” Djokovic said after the Wimbledon finals.
- So the only way to get into the U.S. is if they abolish the requirement to show a vaccination certificate, or whatever it’s called, at the border, or make an exception. So far, both options don’t look very realistic.
However, literally the next day the Serb blew up the social media. Wimbledon finalist Nick Kyrios told the press that he often corresponds with Djokovic and before the deciding match they agreed to have lunch together in a restaurant after the tournament at the expense of the future champion, whoever it was. On Monday, Kyrios burst into comments with Novak asking, “Where’s my lunch?” And got the answer, “Sorry, buddy. I called every establishment in London and couldn’t find a table for Sunday night. I owe you lunch in New York.” Naturally, this remark immediately sparked a storm of speculation about Djokovic’s prospects.
On Wednesday, Texas Senator Drew Springer implored U.S. President Joe Biden to fix the problem: “We ban Djokovic from the US Open, and at the same time there are millions of unvaccinated illegal immigrants crossing our borders. Joe, who cares if there’s one more person?” and added the hashtag “LetNovacGame.”
It’s not just about the U.S. Open here. The North American tournament series includes the Masters in Cincinnati and Toronto and a plurality of smaller tournaments. Fans, of course, would like to see Djokovic on the court.
Prime Minister’s wishes
Even more unbelievable looks the turnaround with the possibility of Novak to play at the beginning of next season at the Australian Open. Recall that in January, the Serb was accused of providing false information – he claimed he had recently contracted covid and had not visited other countries for 14 days before entering Australia. Djokovic won the first trial, but then Immigration Minister Alex Hawke personally revoked the tennis player’s visa. Novak’s appeal was rejected by the Federal Court of Australia and he was deported from the country. And at the same time a three-year ban on re-entry was imposed. The situation seems to be unambiguous. For Djokovic, it’s unequivocally bad. What other options are there?
It turns out they can. There’s been a change of government in Australia since the beginning of the year, and the new Prime Minister Anthony Albaniz is an avid tennis fan. He follows all the events in the sport and plays himself several times a week. And now the Daily Mail writes that Albaniz “entered into a close dialogue” with the organizers of the local “majors”. And plans to lift the same three-year ban from Djokovic. The leaders of Australian tennis themselves are also determined to solve the issue positively. Meanwhile, the requirement for mandatory vaccination to enter the country in Australia has already been lifted.
- With the status quo, I can’t go to the US or Australia, but I hope for some good news soon,” Djokovic told the Serbian TV station RTS after returning home from Wimbledon.
I believe the situation at the Australian Open will change for the better. We have a lot less time before the US Open, but hope dies last. I’d like to play both. But even if I can’t, it’s not the end of the world for me.
Looks like it’s time to bet on whether Novak will play in the next majors or not. Although epidemiologists are predicting another wave of coronavirus by the fall. So it’s possible that we will face stricter sanitary measures and more twists and turns in this story.