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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Djokovic says he won’t attend US tournaments over vaccination status

Novak Djokovic during his second round match at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis ATP Championships last month.

By Matthew Mpoke Bigg

Novak Djokovic, one of the world’s most prominent sports stars to hold out against getting a coronavirus vaccination, was included in the field for this week’s Indian Wells tennis tournament in Southern California but said Wednesday that he can’t enter the United States and won’t participate.

Djokovic was deported from Australia in January after immigration officials there ruled that he was a danger to society because they said he could energize the country’s anti-vaccination movement. He was thus unable to defend his Australian Open title, which he has won a record nine times.

Djokovic has expressed reluctance to be vaccinated against the coronavirus, saying that he was not convinced by the science. He said the issue was more important to him than adding to the 20 Grand Slam tournaments he has won.

Djokovic told Australian border officials in January that he was unvaccinated, and in recent interviews has given no indication that his status has changed.

Djokovic was the tournament’s second seed. His name and picture appeared on a list of players in the main draw for the BNP Paribas Open, which starts Wednesday at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden. Although not one of the sport’s four major Grand Slams, the hard-court event is considered one of the biggest tournaments in the world.

In a tweet, Djokovic said that the Centers for Disease Control and Protection had confirmed that he is barred from entering the United States, and that he would miss tournaments in Indian Wells and Miami.

Under U.S. immigration law, people who are not citizens and also not immigrants must show proof of full vaccination as well as a negative coronavirus test to enter the country by air.

Djokovic spent two years as the game’s No. 1 ranked player until February, when he slipped to No. 2.

In his absence, Rafael Nadal won the Australian Open and moved one ahead of his rival as the men’s player with the most Grand Slam wins. Nadal also is listed among the players at Indian Wells, although Roger Federer, who has also won 20 Grand Slam titles, is not.

Last week, officials in France announced that the country would no longer require visitors to show proof of a coronavirus vaccine to enter indoor establishments after March 14, most likely clearing the way for Djokovic to defend his championship at the French Open this spring.

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