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13 Aug, 2022 12:37

Djokovic pulls out of US Open warmup but could still make Grand Slam

The Serb will not feature at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati
Djokovic pulls out of US Open warmup but could still make Grand Slam

Tennis all-time great Novak Djokovic has pulled out of the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati next week due to not having his Covid vaccine jabs, according to a report, though it has elsewhere been suggested that a policy change could still see him make the US Open.

The AP reported on Friday that the 20-time Grand Slam winner would not make the Flushing Meadows warm-up event due to his vaccine stance, which has already seen him unable to defend his Australian Open crown at the turn of 2022 snatched away by Rafael Nadal in the final against Daniil Medvedev.

In turn, Nadal surpassed Djokovic in all-time Grand Slam wins and Russian Medvedev went on to become the ATP men's tour's world number one which is a title he lost, reclaimed, and currently holds through the hard court season. 

In a statement, the Cincinnati tournament said that Djokovic had pulled out of the Western & Southern Open due to "travel restrictions", but this was accepted to be a nod towards his unvaccinated status by the AP supported by the fact that foreign citizens of this kind currently can't enter either Canada or the US. 

Elsewhere, however, it has been suggested that a change of policy from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) may see Djokovic able to compete in the last major tournament of the year. 

The CDC governs US health measures, and announced the end of a series of Covid restrictions this week with unvaccinated people treated the same as their vaccinated counterparts – but only if they are US citizens.

Should the loosening of restrictions end up stretching to foreign visitors, US Open organizers, who decided not to ban Russians from the Grand Slam for their country's military operation in Ukraine like Wimbledon in fear of being stripped of ranking points, will then have the final say.

But even if the United States Tennis Association (USTA) rules in favor of unvaccinated athletes, there is a race against time for Djokovic to jump through all the bureaucratic hoops such as obtaining a visa.

"If I don't have permission, I won't go. It's not the end of the world either," Djokovic previously said about the tournament.

Yet it now appears that he has an increased chance of equalling Nadal's 22 Grand Slam haul after winning Wimbledon, with clinching the US Open for a fourth time also seeing Djokovic avenge a final loss to Medvedev in the last edition of the tournament. 

The US Open begins in Queens, New York on August 29 at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.