Tue, 26 Sep 2023

The Serbian tennis world number one could be prohibited from defending his other competition crowns

Novak Djokovic arrived home in Serbia at the start of the week, concluding an Australian Open soap opera that has dominated the headlines for the past fortnight.

Believing a medical exemption would be enough to aim for a record 10th title at the Melbourne spectacle, the 34-year-old ended up being deported after the Australian government argued that the presence of the unvaccinated star risked inciting anti-vaxx sentiment among the population.

While Djokovic has already been deprived of the chance to claim the opening Grand Slam of the year, there are already signs that some of the remaining three Major crowns on offer could also be placed beyond his reach for vaccine-related reasons.

French Open

Next up on the Grand Slam calendar is the Roland-Garros clay-court showpiece which kicks off in the French capital on May 22.

Djokovic beat Stefanos Tsitsipas in five sets to win the title last time round, but French Sports Minister Roxana Maracineanu has already signaled that athletes will need to be vaccinated in order to compete in Paris this spring.

The French parliament recently approved new vaccine passport laws, with the French Sports Ministry insisting the rules "apply to everyone who is a spectator or a professional sportsperson" until further notice.

"As far as Roland-Garros is concerned, it's in May. The situation may change between now and then and we hope it'll be more favorable. So we'll see, but clearly there's no exemption [for anyone unvaccinated]," a spokesperson confirmed.

Christophe Castaner, head of President Emmanuel Macron's ruling LREM party in the National Assembly, went one further by saying that Djokovic trying to reclaim top honors in Paris while unvaccinated is "out of the question."


Things at least appear a little more promising for Djokovic for the third Grand Slam of the year at SW19, where the Serb is again the defending champion.

Should he still remain unvaccinated, Djokovic will likely face Covid restrictions such as testing prior to arrival, and potential quarantine and further testing once he is in the UK.

Djokovic is reigning Wimbledon champion. � Getty Images

But as things stand, reports have indicated that the All England Club will simply follow government guidelines, rather than mimicking the likes of the Australian Open by adding additional layers of authorization through things such as vaccine exemption medical panels.

Tennis bosses could still impose specific rules and guidelines, but they have made no indication of what those might be - if any - as we are still five months away from the grass-court showpiece getting underway at the end of June.

Should he line up, Djokovic will be aiming for a seventh Wimbledon title.

US Open

Losing to Russian Daniil Medvedev in the 2021 final at Flushing Meadows prevented Djokovic from becoming the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to win all four Grand Slams in a calendar year.

Some fans there had voiced anger that they needed to be vaccinated to watch, whereas the competitors didn't.

New York has since introduced vaccine mandates which cover resident athletes competing at indoor venues, although at present non-residents are exempt.

Djokovic was runner-up last time round at Flushing Meadows. � Getty Images

But perhaps far more significantly, with the US now requiring flying foreign visitors to be fully vaccinated - with only 'limited exceptions' - the chances of Djokovic avenging the Medvedev loss seem much less likely as he might not even be allowed to set foot in the country.

All in all, it's seem Djokovic will continue to face significant roadblocks in his bid to surpass generational rivals Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer in the all-time Grand Slam stakes, with the trio currently tied on 20 titles each.


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