Novak Djokovic will not play at the Miami Open next week after the world No. 1 was denied an exemption that would have allowed him to enter the US despite not being vaccinated against COVID-19.
The Serbian, who is one of the most high-profile athletes unvaccinated against the virus, applied to the US government last month for a waiver to play at ATP Masters events at Indian Wells and Miami.
‘We tried to get Novak Djokovic to be allowed to get an exemption, but that wasn’t able to happen,’ tournament director James Blake told Tennis Channel.
‘Obviously, we’re one of the premier tournaments in the world, we’d like to have the best players that can play. We did all that we could. We tried to talk to the government, but that’s out of our hands.’
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and the state’s two US senators were among those calling on the Biden administration to allow world No. 1 Djokovic to enter the US and compete at the tournament he has won six times.
Novak Djokovic will not play at the Miami Open next week due to the USA’s COVID rules
Djokovic won his record-tying 22nd Grand Slam at the Australian Open in January
The 35-year-old was also forced to miss the ongoing Masters tournament in Indian Wells, California, due to his inability to secure the exemption.
The US currently bars unvaccinated foreigners from entry into the country, a policy that is expected to be lifted when the government ends its COVID-19 emergency declarations on May 11. He can therefore play at the US Open in the summer.
American comedian and talk-show host Bill Maher did not hold back in his criticism of his nation’s COVID rules when Djokovic was forced to withdraw from Indian Wells.
‘He’s unvaccinated but he’s had COVID twice, natural immunity. Again something we always used to understand was like better than the actual vaccine. Somehow that got to be reversed,’ he said in a panel discussion.
‘The head of the Miami tournament, I read a quote and he’s trying to get Djokovic in. He said: “There doesn’t appear to be any imminent danger.”
‘Imminent danger? Of a man playing tennis? Of a man who’s had it twice? In a sport where you’re alone, in the middle of a stadium where you’re outside in a country where everyone’s already had it.
‘No imminent danger. This country is stuck on stupid, it just is.’
Djokovic, who missed last year’s Australian Open after being deported from that country due to his vaccination status, has said he would skip Grand Slams rather than have a COVID shot.
He won his record-tying 22nd Grand Slam at the Australian Open in January. He has not played at Indian Wells or the Miami Open – which together comprise the ‘Sunshine Double’ – since 2019.
A representative for Djokovic said the player would make no further comment regarding his absence from the Miami tournament, and he planned to return to the tour at the Monte Carlo Masters clay-court event that begins on April 9.
Djokovic will then continue his preparations for the French Open in May by playing in the Srpska Open in Banja Luka, Bosnia.
The world No. 1 plans to return to the tour at the Monte Carlo Masters event on April 9