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Can Novak Djokovic play US Open? Latest as unvaccinated Serb pulls out

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Novak Djokovic’s bid for a waiver to enter the United States has failed, with many left wondering if the world No 1 can play in the US Open later this year. The Serbian withdrew from the Indian Wells Masters on Sunday night, just days before it was set to begin in Southern California and hours before the tournament draw was released.

There was no reason given for Djokovic’s withdrawal. However, according to The Associated Press, Djokovic lost his bid to enter the United States as someone who is unvaccinated against Covid-19.

The Serb has previously said he would skip Grand Slams rather than have a Covid vaccine. The news came just days after the US Open and the USTA threw their support behind Djokovic’s attempt at receiving special permission to enter the States – something he is currently not allowed to do.

Djokovic said last month that he applied for a special waiver to enter in order to compete at Indian Wells – a tournament he last won in 2016 – and the Miami Open later this month.

Australia has since loosened its coronavirus vaccine restrictions on international travellers, which allowed Djokovic to both compete in and win the Australian Open earlier this year. The United States, though, still does not permit international travellers to enter the country without being vaccinated.

The 35-year-old said last month: “Everything is currently in the process. I have a big desire to be there. I am really thankful to the Indian Wells and Miami tournament [officials] and community for their support publicly, and they would like me to be able to play in their tournaments.”

Djokovic’s saga against receiving the Covid-19 vaccine dates back to last January, when he was deported from Australia just before the Australian Open. Djokovic missed the US Open last year as well as several other events – including Indian Wells – in the last 15-plus months.

The current US entry regulations are set to be lifted on May 11, something that would allow Djokovic and other unvaccinated travellers to enter the country. If that happens, the 22-time Grand Slam champion would be allowed to play at the US Open this fall.

Ahead of his expulsion, the US Open Twitter account posted on Friday: “Novak Djokovic is one the greatest champions our sport has ever seen.

“The USTA and US Open are hopeful that Novak is successful in his petition to enter the country, and that the fans will be able to see him back in action at Indian Wells and Miami.”

Indian Wells tournament director Tommy Haas has said Djokovic’s “situation is obviously frustrating for us”.

Haas told the New York Times: “We want the best tennis player in the world to be here. He’s writing me, he wants to be here. So of course, you’re like, ‘Ok, let’s try to make this happen. How can we figure this out that’s going to be realistic?’

“But at the end of the day, unfortunately, that’s not in our hands and that’s what’s frustrating.”

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