Novak Djokovic’s refusal to vaccinate himself against Covid-19 continues to cost him a shot at Grand Slam titles. The tennis star announced Thursday that he was forced to skip the U.S. Open due to travel restrictions against unvaccinated non-citizens.
“Sadly, I will not be able to travel to NY this time for US Open,” Djokovic tweeted Thursday. “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!”
While Djokovic was able to compete at the 2021 U.S. Open, travel regulations have since changed in the past year. “Non-U.S. citizen, non-U.S. immigrants: You must show proof of being fully vaccinated with the primary series of an accepted COVID-19 vaccine before you board your flight to the United States. Only limited exceptions apply,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s updated guidance on international travel states.
Djokovic, who won Wimbledon in July, was hoping either the U.S. gave him exception status or changed its regulations before the U.S. Open, but that didn’t happen; in recent weeks, the former No. 1-ranked player in the world missed tournaments in Cincinnati and Montreal/Toronto due to the travel restrictions in both the U.S. and Canada.
At the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, even before there was a vaccination against Covid-19, Djokovic made his stance on vaccinations clear in a livestream in April 2020. “Personally, I am opposed to vaccination, and I wouldn’t want to be forced by someone to take a vaccine in order to be able to travel,” he said. “But if it becomes compulsory, what will happen? I will have to make a decision. I have my own thoughts about the matter, and whether those thoughts will change at some point, I don’t know.”
In January 2022, Djokovic’s unvaccinated status got him stuck in visa purgatory as he attempted to defend his title at the Australian Open. After being detained, and then released, and then detained again, Djokovic was ultimately deported from Australia without playing in the Grand Slam hardcourt tournament he had won nine times previously, including in 2019, 2020, and 2021.
Always-outspoken tennis great John McEnroe voiced his unlikely support for Djokovic Wednesday, saying, “I don’t think it’s fair” that Djokovic couldn’t play in the U.S. Open.
“I think it’s a joke. I would have had the vaccine and gone and played, but he’s got very strong beliefs and you have to respect that,” McEnroe said (via ESPN). “At this point, in the pandemic, we’re 2.5 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.”
Djokovic previously won the U.S. Open in 2011, 2015, and 2018.