The Spanish government wants Novak Djokovic to get vaccinated before competing at the Mutua Madrid Open as a show of leadership.
The Serbian tennis player owns a house in Marbella and regularly travels to the country — where vaccination is not mandatory.
During a Jan. 18 news conference, government spokeswoman Isabel Rodriguez was asked if he would be allowed to compete this spring if he remains unvaccinated.
Djokovic was deported from Australia one day before the start of the Australian Open after a complex legal dispute surrounding his medical exemption from the nation’s vaccine requirements.
“What Mr. Djokovic has to do is get vaccinated, that would be the most sensible thing to do,” Rodriguez told the assembled press. “Leading by example is important and this is indeed what our country’s great sportsmen and women do.”
She drew a comparison to Rafael Nadal, the Spanish tennis player with whom Djokovic is tied for a record of 20 major titles. The two would have likely faced off at the Australian Open for a 21st grand slam victory.
“I wish him all the best. I really respect him…even if I (do) not agree with a lot of things that he did the last couple of weeks,” Nadal said told Sports Illustrated when asked about his rival’s visa problems.
“Honestly, I’m a little bit tired of the situation,” he added.
Spain has a high vaccination rate. The country surpassed its goal of getting 70% of its population to get fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in September. As of Jan. 17, nearly 82% of the eligible population had been fully vaccinated.
The national government currently requires travelers to show proof of vaccination, a negative PCR test to enter the country, or a certification of having recovered from COVID-19.
Djokovic has previously stated that he had contracted and recovered from COVID-19 in December 2021. He is, therefore, currently eligible to travel to Spain.
The Mutua Madrid Open is scheduled for April 26 to May 8.
Spain’s comments follow an announcement from the Sports Minister of France, who said Djokovic will not be permitted to compete at the French Open if he does not get the vaccination.
His vaccination status may also impact his eligibility to compete at other professional tennis events this spring, including Wimbledon in England and at the U.S. Open.