Novak Djokovic has had to admit defeat in his bid to play at the US Open, accepting that his unvaccinated status means he can’t travel to New York for next week’s grand slam.
The 21-time slam winner, who’d been dreaming of drawing level with Rafael Nadal’s record mark of 22 at Flushing Meadows, had hoped the US authorities might change long-standing rules to allow non-citizens without a coronavirus vaccine to enter.
He announced the news on social media just before the official draw for the tournament, which begins on Monday, was due to be made on Thursday.
“Sadly, I will not be able to travel to NY this time for US Open. Thank you #NoleFam for your messages of love and support,” Djokovic said 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. See you soon tennis world!”
The Wimbledon champion, who was also banned from playing in the Australian Open due to his anti-vaccination stance, said after his SW19 success in July that he was waiting “hopefully for some good news from USA”.
That good news didn’t come for him although he remained on the entry list in the vain hope of a late change of heart from authorities.
The United States Tennis Association (USTA) described Djokovic’s absence as “unfortunate” but said it looked forward to having him back 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.
“We look forward to welcoming Novak back at the 2023 US Open.”
His rival’s absence means Nadal now has the chance to again open up a two-slam gap over Djokovic in their continuing race to accumulate the all-time highest number of grand slam triumphs.
The rest of the field, headed by defending champion Daniil Medvedev and Australian Wimbledon finalist Nick Kyrgios, will also find their title hopes boosted significantly without the presence of the three-time US Open champ.
The 35-year-old Djokovic has been steadfast in saying he won’t get vaccinated against COVID, even if that prevents him from playing in the biggest events.
Djokovic missed the Melbourne Park slam at the start of the year amid a dramatic legal and political saga during which he was kept in detention before eventually being deported from the country.
He’s also missed four big tournaments in North America in 2022, including in Montreal and Cincinnati recently.
After beating Kyrgios in the Wimbledon final on July 10, Djokovic had said he “would love” to participate at Flushing Meadows but added, “I’m not planning to get vaccinated.”
Djokovic is currently No.6 in the world rankings, with no points having been awarded at Wimbledon, but may well have started favourite to win a fourth singles crown.