By HOWARD FENDRICH AP Tennis Writer – After Novak Djokovic withdrew from tournaments in Florida and California because he still can’t travel to the United States as a foreign citizen who is not vaccinated against COVID-19, a U.S. Tennis Association spokesman said Saturday the group is “very hopeful” the top-ranked player will be allowed into the country for the U.S. Open in August.
“Policies concerning access to the United States are determined by the White House. We are very hopeful that the policy preventing Novak Djokovic from entering the United States will be rescinded, or lapse, in the near future,” the USTA’s Chris Widmaier wrote to The Associated Press.
“No COVID-19 restrictions are in place at the U.S. Open for any player, fan or other attendee. Novak, one of our sport’s great champions, would be welcome to compete at the 2023 U.S. Open.”
The two-week U.S. Open starts in Flushing Meadows on Aug. 28.
Djokovic, a 35-year-old from Serbia, was unable to get to New York for the season’s last Grand Slam tournament in 2022, when he also missed the Miami Open and BNP Paribas Open because he never got the shots for the illness caused by the coronavirus.
A six-time Miami Open champion, Djokovic is out of the field for the event that begins next week, a spokesman for the Miami Open said Saturday.
Djokovic is No. 1 in the ATP rankings and is tied with Rafael Nadal — who is injured and also won’t be in Miami — at 22 Grand Slam titles, the record for most won by a man. In 2023, Djokovic is 15-1 with two titles, including at the Australian Open in January.
But he will now have missed the first two Masters 1000 events of the season. He also pulled out of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, California, which ends this weekend.
Back in in April 2020, as the pandemic raged, Djokovic said he was opposed to needing to be vaccinated to travel. He later said he would not get inoculated even if it meant missing tournaments.
In January 2022, he tried to get an exemption to compete at the Australian Open and traveled to Melbourne. But after his case went to court, his visa was revoked and Djokovic was deported from the country.
Pandemic restrictions have been eased in Australia since, and Djokovic returned this year without a problem and won the season’s first major championship.
Meanwhile, Nadal has been sidelined since hurting his left hip flexor during a second-round loss at Melbourne Park. He is aiming to return to action at the Monte Carlo Masters next month.