Novak Djokovic withdraws from US Open after choosing not to vaccinate against Covid-19

Novak Djokovic withdraws from US Open after choosing not to vaccinate against Covid-19
Novak Djokovic. (Photo: Julian Finney / Getty Images)

The US Open men’s draw will exclude Novak Djokovic but will include Russian 2021 champion Daniil Medvedev.

Former world number one Novak Djokovic will miss the season’s final Grand Slam — the US Open — after he said on Thursday that he would not be able to travel to New York for the tournament, having chosen not to be vaccinated against Covid-19. 

Current rules require travellers to show proof of full vaccination to board flights to and enter the US. 

“Sadly, I will not be able to travel to NY this time for the US Open,” Djokovic wrote on Twitter. “Good luck to my fellow players! I’ll keep in good shape and positive spirit and wait for an opportunity to compete again.” 

The Serbian previously said he was prepared to miss Grand Slam tournaments that require participating players to be vaccinated against Covid-19. 

Djokovic was on the entry list for the tournament in New York, starting on 29 August and ending on 11 September. 

The 35-year-old was also unable to defend his Australian Open crown earlier this year after being deported from the country over his vaccination status. 

The United States Tennis Association (USTA) described Djokovic’s absence as “unfortunate” but looked forward to having him back at Flushing Meadows next year. 

“Novak is a great champion and it is very unfortunate that he will be unable to compete at the 2022 US Open, as he is unable to enter the country due to the federal government’s vaccination policy for non-US citizens,” said US Open tournament director Stacey Allaster in a statement. 

“We look forward to welcoming Novak back at the 2023 US Open.” 

Many had hoped to see Djokovic on the Flushing Meadows hard courts where he has hoisted the trophy three times and reached the final on six other occasions. 

The hashtag #LetNovakPlay has been circulating on social media as Djokovic’s fans voiced their support for a player who moved within one of Spaniard Rafa Nadal’s record of 22 Grand Slam titles after his Wimbledon triumph last month. 

Fans had also been circulating an online petition in hopes of gaining Djokovic entry into the US while four-times US Open winner John McEnroe had said it would be “a joke” if the Serb was unable to compete due to his Covid-19 vaccination status. 

Novak Djokovic of Serbia celebrates winning match point against Nick Kyrgios of Australia during their Men’s Singles final match on day 14 of The Championships Wimbledon 2022 at the All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club on 10 July 2022 in London, England. (Photo: Clive Brunskill / Getty Images)

Nadal boost  

Nadal’s timely recovery from injury to return to the US Open for the first time since winning the 2019 title is a big boost to the men’s draw which has been depleted by the absence of Djokovic and Alexander Zverev. 

Nadal returned to the tour only last week at the Cincinnati Open, having not played a competitive match since pulling out of his Wimbledon semifinal against Nick Kyrgios due to an abdominal injury in early July.  

The 36-year-old’s comeback was marked by a defeat to Borna Coric at the Masters 1000 event, but more importantly for the Spaniard, he did not seem hampered by the injury.  

Flushing Meadows has been a happy hunting ground for the left-hander, who won the hardcourt major four times before he skipped the 2020 tournament due to the Covid-19 pandemic and missed last year’s edition because of injury. 

“I need to move forward and just start to think about the energy that the crowd gives me in New York,” Nadal, who won the Australian and French Open titles in 2022, said last week. 

“I know it’s a very special place for me, and I enjoy it, unforgettable moments there, and I’m going to try my very best every single day to be ready for that.” 

Dominic Thiem, the men’s 2020 champion, will also return to Flushing Meadows after his absence last year due to injury. 

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Mighty Medvedev 

Without a clear favourite in the men’s draw, Nadal’s biggest threat is expected to come from reigning champion and world number one Daniil Medvedev. 

The Russian went down in five sets in the 2019 final to Nadal and has also finished runner-up on the hardcourts of the Australian Open in the last two editions. 

The rangy Russian has won 14 singles titles in his career — all but one on hardcourts, including his only major when he denied Djokovic the calendar Grand Slam last year at Flushing Meadows. 

The 26-year-old was forced to miss Wimbledon because of the ban on Russian players and stepped up his preparations for the year’s final major with a title in Los Cabos, Mexico and a semifinal defeat by Stefanos Tsitsipas in Cincinnati.  

Sandwiched between the two events came an opening defeat at the Canadian Masters for Medvedev against temperamental Australian Nick Kyrgios — one of the Tour’s red-hot players on current form.  

After years of being branded a wasted talent, Kyrgios has displayed a never-seen-before level of consistency in the last couple of months. He finished runner-up at Wimbledon, won the Washington title and reached the quarterfinals in Montreal. 

Kyrgios has confirmed that the US Open will be his final event of the season before he heads back home and the 27-year-old will have to harness the last bit of his motivation and energy to go deep in New York. 

Another player headed to Flushing Meadows bubbling with confidence will be Croatia’s Coric, who clinched the Cincinnati title with wins over three top-10 ranked players — Nadal, Felix Auger-Aliassime and Tsitsipas — among others. 

The 25-year-old, who returned to the Tour in March after a lengthy layoff following last year’s shoulder surgery, jumped to 29th in the rankings from a pre-tournament 152nd and will be the dark horse at the US Open. 

World number four Carlos Alcaraz (19) will lead the charge of the young brigade, with pundits confident it is just a matter of time before the supremely athletic Spaniard wins his first major. DM


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