Tennis player Novak Djokovic will not compete at the US Open because he is not vaccinated against COVID-19.
The Serbian player made international headlines last year when contradicting decisions about his vaccination status ahead of the Australian Open ultimately culminated with him being deported from the country.
“Sadly, I will not be able to travel to NY this time for US Open,” Djokovic wrote on Twitter. “I’ll keep in good shape and positive spirit and wait for an opportunity to compete again.”
Sadly, I will not be able to travel to NY this time for US Open. 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! 👋🏼
— Novak Djokovic (@DjokerNole) August 25, 2022
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention requires all non-citizens who are “nonimmigrants” to show proof that they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to enter the United States.
Non-U.S. citizens who are eligible for asylum, withholding of removal, and who are granted parole into the United States are exempt from this requirement.
Djokovic has declined to get the COVID-19 vaccine as a matter of personal freedom.
“I was never against vaccination, but I’ve always supported the freedom to choose what you put in your body,” he told the BBC in February.
He also said he would rather give up his shot at major tennis titles rather than compromise his beliefs.
“Because the principles of decision making on my body are more important than any title or anything else. I’m trying to be in tune with my body as much as I possibly can,” he said during the interview.
He was ultimately barred from competing in the French Open after the country’s sports minister announced he would not be granted a vaccination exemption.
Djokovic was permitted to compete at Wimbledon, where he won the British tournament for the fourth consecutive year.
The victory also earned him his 21st Grand Slam title, tying him with Rafael Nadal’s record for the most number of men’s single wins.
Nadal, Djokovic and Roger Federer were tied for the most number of Grand Slam titles before the Australian Open in January, where Djokovic was prevented from competing due to his vaccination status. Nadal, who won that event, took the lead with 22 Grand Slam titles after winning the French Open in June.
The US Open would have been Djokovic’s next chance to tie the record.
“Novak is a great champion and it is very unfortunate that he will be unable to compete at the 2022 US Open, as he is unable to enter the country due to the federal government’s vaccination policy for non-U.S.citizens,” said Stacey Allaster, the director of the US Open, said in a statement. “We look forward to welcoming Novak back at the 2023 US Open.”
A statement from the US Open: pic.twitter.com/E5ijwpkKjS
— US Open Tennis (@usopen) August 25, 2022
Despite being one of the most titled athletes in the sport, “Djokovic will likely plummet down the men’s rankings due to his inability to play at the US Open,” reports The Express. “With the ATP stepping in to scrap ranking points from this year’s Wimbledon, Djokovic dropped to No 7 in the world and will fall even lower by the time the US Open ends.”
The news of Djokovic’s withdrawal from the tournament came one hour before the official seeding draw.