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24 Aug, 2022 07:53

Djokovic ban is ‘joke,’ says tennis legend

John McEnroe repeated his belief that the Serb should be allowed to play in New York
Djokovic ban is ‘joke,’ says tennis legend

Novak Djokovic’s absence from the US Open is “unfair” and a “joke,” according to American tennis icon John McEnroe. Djokovic is set to miss the Grand Slam in New York, which gets underway next week, because the US does not allow unvaccinated non-citizens into the country.

“I don’t think it’s fair. I think it’s a joke,” McEnroe told the media on Tuesday.

“I would have had the vaccine and gone and played but he’s got very strong beliefs and you have to respect that.

“At this point, in the pandemic, we’re two-and-a-half years in, I think people in all parts of the world know more about it, and the idea that he can’t travel here to play, to me is a joke,” added the 63-year-old.

US Open organizers do not have a Covid vaccine mandate in place for players, but have to respect government rules which dictate entry into the country.

While Djokovic has continued to train in the hope that US border rules would be relaxed in time for the tournament, that will almost certainly not be the case.

The 21-time Grand Slam winner has still not officially withdrawn, although organizers at Flushing Meadows did not include him on a poster released this week.

Djokovic was deported from Australia at the start of the year in a row over his vaccine status, but did feature at the French Open and Wimbledon – winning the latter tournament.

His absence in New York means the likes of Russian defending champion Daniil Medvedev and Spanish 22-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal have one fewer top rival to worry about.

“That’s the question that we all want to know the answer to,” said McEnroe when asked if Djokovic’s chances of an all-time record haul of Grand Slams was being hindered by his refusal to get vaccinated.

“Obviously, Rafa Nadal has benefited from that. If a guy (Djokovic) has won the Australian Open eight or nine times, you would think (Djokovic lost) a chance in a way.

“Rafa was able to pull off a miraculous win that not many people expected in Australia. Novak got there at Wimbledon and then Rafa got hurt (in the semifinal).”

Djokovic is a three-time champion at the US Open and reached last year’s final, where he was defeated by Medvedev in straight sets.

McEnroe has been among those to consistently demand that the 35-year-old be granted the right to compete in New York this time round.

The American has accused American and Australian politicians of “getting in the way too much,” and recently branded the situation “BS.”

The Serbian diaspora in the country has also directly called on President Joe Biden to intervene, arguing that Djokovic’s absence undermines the prestige and integrity of the tournament.