Novak Djokovic plans to skip US Open due to COVID vaccination rules

(NEW YORK) — Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic won Wimbledon on Sunday, beating Australian player Nick Kyrgios in the final in what will likely be Djokovic’s final Grand Slam appearance this year.

For a second consecutive year, Djokovic won’t be able to play in the U.S. Open in August due to his COVID-19 vaccination status.

“The only good news I can have is them removing the mandated green vaccine card…to enter the United States,” Djokovic said during a press conference on Sunday. “Or exemption.”

Djokovic, 35, is not vaccinated. He told the BBC in February that “based on all the information that I got, I decided not to take the vaccine.” At the post-match press conference on Sunday he reiterated that “I’m not planning to get vaccinated.”

The U.K., where Wimbledon takes place, allows travelers into the country without requiring proof of vaccination. France relaxed its entrance requirements in time to allow Djokovic to play in the French Open in May.

Djokovic was deported from Australia in January after his visa was revoked at the Melbourne airport, restored and then canceled a second time because he is unvaccinated.

His visa was ultimately revoked “on the basis that it was in the public interest to do so,” according to Australian authorities.

Although the U.S. Open and New York City, where the tournament will take place, allow visitors without proof of vaccination, Djokovic will not be able to play because of COVID requirements for international travelers set by the U.S. government. The U.S. does not allow people to visit without proof of COVID-19 vaccination.

American tennis player Tennys Sandgren, despite being unvaccinated, will be able to play in the U.S. Open because of this policy.

“Pretty shameful that the USTA won’t fight for an exemption for Novak,” he wrote in a tweet last month. “I can play but he can’t? Ridiculous.”

During the press interview on Sunday Djokovic stated that an exemption to play in the U.S. Open didn’t seem “realistically possible.”

“Though the U.S. Open does not have a vaccination mandate in place for players, we respect the U.S. government’s position regarding travel into the country for non-U.S. citizens,” a spokesperson for the U.S. Open told ABC News.

Mark Conrad, a professor of law and ethics at Fordham University who specializes in sports law and business, told ABC News he would be “very, very surprised if there were a change in policy, especially with the latest variants.”

“I don’t really think there’ll be a lot of sympathy,” he said. “If there’s an exemption for him, there will be a lot of people saying why should he get that exemption?”

“Does the government really care so much to go and stick his neck out for one tennis player, no matter how good he is?”

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