Novak Djokovic is in the draw for this week’s BNP Paribas Open, but it is uncertain whether he will be allowed to enter the United States for the ATP Tour event because he has said he would not get vaccinated against the coronavirus.
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The event in Indian Wells, Calif., which is considered one of the biggest non-major tournaments on the tennis calendar, begins Wednesday. Djokovic, who is seeded second after recently dropping to No. 2 in the ATP rankings, has a first-round bye and is scheduled to face either Jordan Thompson of Australia or David Goffin of Belgium in the second round Saturday.
But he first must clear a hurdle similar to one that created a weeks-long saga before the Australian Open in January that ultimately led to his deportation. Those who are not U.S. citizens or immigrants are required to show proof of full vaccination as well as a negative coronavirus test to enter the United States by air.
“We are currently in communication with his team,” tournament organizers said in a statement. “However, it has not been determined if he will participate in the event by getting CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] approval to enter the country. We will provide updates in the future as we learn more.”
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Late last month, Djokovic said he knew he might not be allowed to play in the Indian Wells event. “I can’t enter [the] United States. As of today I’m not able to play. But let’s see what happens,” he told reporters. “Maybe things change in the next few weeks.”
Djokovic has remained opposed to being vaccinated against the coronavirus, saying that he is unconvinced by the science and is careful about what he puts in his body. However, he added in a recent BBC interview that it was a “misconception” that he is part of the anti-vaccine movement and he knows the matter is personal.
“I was never against vaccination,” he said. “I understand that, globally, everyone is trying to put a big effort into handling this virus. … But I’ve always represented and always supported the freedom to choose what you put into your body, and for me that is essential.”
The issue is so important to him, he said, that sacrificing the chance to play in future Grand Slams such as the French Open and Wimbledon was a price he was “willing to pay.” He had been tied with Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer for the most men’s singles titles all-time with 20, but Nadal broke the tie with his victory in the Australian Open, the first Slam of the year.
In his first tournament of the year after he was forced to leave Melbourne, Djokovic lost in the quarterfinals last month to Jiri Vesely of the Czech Republic in the Dubai Tennis Championships. Russia’s Daniil Medvedev, the runner-up to Nadal in Australia, replaced Djokovic atop the rankings. Medvedev is playing in Indian Wells with no country affiliation because of professional tennis’s response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.