Serbian professional tennis player Novak Djokovic – considered one of the greatest of all time – announced that he will not be competing at the upcoming U.S. Open due to the fact that he is barred from entering the United States due to his status of not being vaccinated against COVID-19.
Djokovic made the proclamation via Twitter, noting travel restrictions that do not allow non-citizen from traveling to the U.S. if they have not received the jab.
“Sadly, I will not be able to travel to NY this time for US Open,” he tweeted. “Thank you #NoleFam for your messages of love and support. Good luck to my fellow players! I’ll keep in good shape and positive spirit and wait for an opportunity to compete again. See you soon tennis world!”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Djokovic stated he opposed “forced vaccination” and would not take the COVID vaccine just to be able to return to playing, although he denied being a part of the overall “anti-vax” movement.
However, due to his stance on the COVID vaccine, he was barred from competing at the 2022 Australian Open in January – where he had been the defending champion and was heavily favored to win – as well as the 2022 Canadian Open earlier in August.
Djokovic was able to compete at Wimbledon this July however, where he defeated competitor Nick Kyrgios in the Final to win the tournament. At that time, he reaffirmed that he would not become inoculated to compete at the U.S. Open the following month, although he stressed that he supported “freedom of choice” when it comes to the personal decision whether or not to take a vaccine.
Djokovic is considered by many to be possibly the greatest tennis player ever to compete, having won 21 Grand Slam titles during his career and holding onto the No. 1 ranking for a record 373 weeks, until finally dropping down to his current ranking of No. 6 due to his lack of participation in the Australian and Canadian Opens.
Some commentators expressed concern that Djokovic’s stance against the COVID-19 vaccine could damage his placement among the all-time great tennis players, while others have applauded his decision to remain committed to his personal beliefs, despite harming his career in the process.
The United States Tennis Association (USTA), in response to Djokovic’s announcement, noted in a statement that they do not require their players to be vaccinated, but federal law trumps their ability to allow the Serbian to enter the country to play at the U.S. Open.
“The U.S. 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,” the USTA said.