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23 Aug, 2022 09:25

US Open drops major Djokovic hint

The unvaccinated Serbian star is set to miss out in New York
US Open drops major Djokovic hint

US Open organizers have given the latest indication that Novak Djokovic will miss this year’s tournament after unveiling a poster with the Serbian star absent. Djokovic has not officially withdrawn but is almost certain to miss the tournament due to an American entry ban for non-citizens who are unvaccinated against Covid-19.

The Batman-style poster shared by the US Open’s social media accounts – with the tagline ‘It’s time. Tennis stars are ready to answer the US Open call’ – featured defending men’s champion Daniil Medvedev of Russia as well as female counterpart Emma Raducanu of the UK.

There was also room for four-time tournament winner Rafael Nadal and women’s great Serena Williams, who has announced she will retire after the hard court showpiece, which gets underway on August 29.

WTA world number one Iga Swiatek was also present, as was rising men’s ace Carlos Alcaraz of Spain and Australian Wimbledon finalist Nick Kyrgios. Two-time US Open champion Naomi Osaka completed the line-up.

Conspicuous by his absence was three-time New York king Djokovic – something which was not lost on fans.

“There’s no Djokovic on the poster. I guess he won’t be able to play. It’s a shame for him and the interests of the tournament…,” lamented one fan.

“Where’s Novak?! Let him play!” demanded another.

“No Novak in this pic… Bad news,” replied a fellow tennis enthusiast.

An even blunter response read: “You should be embarrassed and ashamed if you don’t allow Novak Djokovic to play.”

The US Open does not have a vaccine mandate in place for players – meaning the likes of unjabbed American player Tennys Sandgren can feature – but government rules prevent foreigners from entering the country if they have not been vaccinated.

American tennis icon John McEnroe has been among those to criticize the US government, calling the situation “BS”, while members of the Serbian community in the country have directly called on President Joe Biden to intervene.

But officials at Flushing Meadows have said they will respect government rules, and this week reminded any visitors that “if you are traveling from abroad to attend the US Open, you must be fully vaccinated with the primary series of an accepted Covid vaccine to travel to the United States (this applies to non-US citizens and/or non-US immigrants).”

Djokovic, 35, had been holding out hope of a late change in government policy after the US CDC relaxed some of its Covid guidelines earlier this month – although border restrictions were not among them.

The 21-time Grand Slam champion has continued his full preparations in the hopes that he could yet feature, even if it seems inevitable that his non-participation will be confirmed imminently.

The US Open will be the second Grand Slam of the year that Djokovic has been forced to miss after he was deported from Australia in January in a row over his vaccine status.

The star reiterated after winning Wimbledon in July that he was not willing to get vaccinated, even if it meant missing out on more titles.

On Monday it was confirmed that men’s world number two Alexander Zverev would also miss the US Open after failing to recover from the ankle injury he sustained in the French Open semifinal earlier this year.