Novak Djokovic’s COVID vaccine stance has cost him again, with the men’s world No.2 pulling out of two of the biggest events in the ATP Tour calendar.
The Serbian tennis star took to social media on Thursday morning (AEDT) to reveal he wouldn’t be appearing at Indian Wells (BNP Paribas Open) and the Miami Open, during the US swing of tournaments in March.
He also explained why he waited so long to make the decision, despite the United States CDC (Centres for Disease Control and Prevention) having clear rules preventing unvaccinated people entering the country.
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“While I was automatically listed in the @bnpparibasopen and @miamiopen draw, I knew, given the entry requirements to the US, it would be unlikely I’d be able to travel there,” Djokovic wrote.
“But as international COVID regulations are always being amended, I wanted to wait and see if anything would change.
“The CDC confirmed today that regulations are not changing which means I will not be playing in the US.
“I know my fans are looking forward to seeing me play again and I hope to be back playing for them on the tour soon.
“Good luck to everyone who is playing in the US in these great tournaments.”
The 20-time major winner revealed last month he was yet to receive any coronavirus vaccination, insisting he would forgo big tournaments “because the principles of decision-making on my body are more important than any title or anything else”.
The 34-year-old, who played his first and only tournament of the year a fortnight ago in Dubai, was overtaken at the top of the rankings by Daniil Medvedev last week and is the only man in the top 100 who remains unvaccinated.
He was deported from Australia in January after the federal government cancelled his visa over his vaccine status, with Rafael Nadal winning the first major of the year at the Australian Open to set the men’s record of 21 grand slam titles.
Djokovic is expected to remain in Europe and prepare for the clay-court swing, which gets under way next month.
France recently eased its vaccine rules, paving the way for Djokovic to compete at this year’s French Open, a tournament he’s won twice.
Djokovic throws support behind Ukraine star
Meanwhile, Djokovic has offered financial support and any other help required to Ukrainian former men’s world No.31 Sergiy Stakhovsky, who has enlisted in his country’s reserve army amid Russia’s invasion of its neighbour.
Stakhovsky, who won four ATP titles and had a shock win over Roger Federer in the second round of Wimbledon in 2013, joined Ukraine’s reserve army last month despite a lack of military experience.
The 36-year-old posted a screenshot on Instagram of his conversation with Djokovic via WhatsApp, in which the Serbian world No.2 asked about his situation and hoped for things to calm down.
“Please let me know what would be the best address to send help … financial help, any other help as well,” Djokovic said in the message to the retired Stakhovsky.
Stakhovsky posted on Instagram that Ukraine was grateful for Djokovic’s offer of support.
Several other Ukrainian athletes, including world boxing heavyweight champions Wladimir Klitschko and Vitali Klitschko, are defending their country after taking up arms.
– With AAP
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