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26 Apr, 2022 12:40

Wimbledon confirms if players will need to be vaccinated

The unjabbed Novak Djokovic is defending champion at SW19
Wimbledon confirms if players will need to be vaccinated

Novak Djokovic has been given the green light to defend his crown at Wimbledon after organizers confirmed that players won't need to be vaccinated to take part in the English Grand Slam.

World number one Djokovic, who is unvaccinated, was deported from Australia at the turn of 2022 despite receiving a medical exemption which he thought would be enough to allow him to play at the Australian Open in Melbourne.

After a legal battle, the Serb had his Australian visa canceled and was forced to return to Belgrade to watch Rafael Nadal succeed him as the champion and surpass him in all-time Grand Slam wins.

Djokovic was already aware that he would be able to play the French Open, where he is also the reigning champion, in May after the local government lifted vaccination requirements.

But whether Djokovic would be allowed to try and become the king of grass again at Wimbledon was up in the air with the All England Club yet to make a final decision on the topic until now.

On Tuesday, however, the tournament announced that no Covid regulations will be in place during its annual briefing.

"The requirements set up do not include mandatory vaccination. It will not be a condition of entry for the Championships this year," confirmed  Wimbledon chief executive Sally Bolton.

Djokovic is a six-time winner at Wimbledon, which makes it his second most successful competition after the Australia Open, where he boasts nine triumphs.

Though the 34-year-old will be boosted by the ruling, he has already gone on record opposing the organizers' ban on Russian players which was announced last week as a response to the military operation, despite tours such as the WTA and ATP allowing Russians and Belarusians to compete under neutral status. 

“I will always condemn war, I will never support war being myself a child of war,” Djokovic was quoted as saying from the Serbia Open.

“I know how much emotional trauma it leaves. In Serbia we all know what happened in 1999. In the Balkans we have had many wars in recent history.

“However, I cannot support the decision of Wimbledon, I think it is crazy. When politics interferes with sport, the result is not good,” Djokovic added.

Djokovic was beaten in the Serbia Open final by Russian star Andrey Rublev on Sunday, but doubled down on his remarks.

"I stand by what I said, there is no need for athletes to be banned," Djokovic stressed.

"We have rules against discrimination in tennis. We play based on rankings, not nationality. I support the statements of ATP and PTPA," he concluded.

The statements Djokovic mentioned saw the ATP men's tour accuse the All England Club of discrimination and the PTPA tweet that it doesn't "discriminate against any tennis player based on nationality."

Also at the weekend, a former coach of Djokovic's in Nikola Pilic suggested that there could be a boycott at Wimbledon like the 81-player one he instigated in 1973 when in dispute with the Yugoslav Tennis Federation. 

"Boris Johnson is crazy!" Pilic raged to Ubitennis' Italian edition while addressing the ban on Russian athletes. "Rublev and [Daniil] Medvedev have nothing to do with [President Vladimir] Putin, they just want to play tennis just like everyone else."

"Politics has gone too far into sport and I think this situation could be very similar to that of '73," Pilic also predicted.

"In the sense that, someone might say: 'if these tennis players don't play, we don't play either!' and, at that point, I'd be curious to see what Wimbledon's reaction would be."

To a political backdrop but without Covid restrictions, Wimbledon runs from June 27 to July 10 and will be played before capacity crowds.