Tennis has undergone a massive shift in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the sport making rapid adjustments wherever possible to keep going.
For starters, ball kids bringing towels to players after every point is a thing of the past. The players themselves are now tasked with taking care of their equipment.
The 2020 season saw several tournaments being canceled, while 2021 witnessed a number of events being moved around and called off due to scheduling issues. But this year, things have more or less returned to normal, with one minor exception - the introduction of vaccine mandates.
Many countries around the world, and the events held there, by extension, still follow strict vaccine mandates. This has meant that only players who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 have been allowed to participate. A few top athletes have suffered as a result of their decision to remain unvaccinated.
The first person that comes to mind in this regard is Novak Djokovic. But he is not the only elite tennis player who has been forced to skip events for not getting the vaccine. On that note, here's a look at three tennis players (ranked within the top 200) who have been subjected to the same fate:
#1 Tennys Sandgren
Tennys Sandgren missed the 2022 Australian Open due to not being vaccinated. The World No. 163 did not apply for any medical exemptions either, remarking that he did not qualify for any of them.
The 30-year-old was also a staunch supporter of Novak Djokovic during the Serb's visa fiasco prior to the tournament. Sandgren claimed that Djokovic was the victim of a political stunt and went as far as to say that Australia "does not deserve" to host a Major for the way they treated the World No. 1.
Speaking in another interview, the former World No. 41 opined that the Serb was merely a "scapegoat" and wished him good luck in his fight against the authorities.
The American had previously caused a storm during the 2021 Australian Open by boarding a flight to Melbourne after testing positive for COVID-19.
#2 Pierre-Hugues Herbert
Pierre-Hugues Herbert was the first tennis player to opt out of the 2022 Australian Open due to the vaccine mandate. The Frenchman revealed in an interview with L'Alsace that he did not take the vaccine out of personal choice.
In the same interview, Herbert also expressed doubts over whether it was feasible to maintain his position in the long run because of all the traveling involved in the sport.
The World No. 133 has, however, worked his way around the issue by playing five tournaments in his home country. Now, with rules being relaxed all around Europe, Herbert has played a couple more Challenger events in neighboring countries Switzerland and Italy.
#3 Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic is perhaps the most high-profile athlete to remain unvaccinated to this day.
Many, including his own biographer, had hoped that the World No. 1 would change his tune after what went down in Australia. However, Djokovic has shown that he is willing to do whatever it takes to stick to his principles.
The Serb has played in only one tournament (Dubai Tennis Championships) in 2022 so far, missing out on trips to Australia as well as the USA. But in an interview with the BBC, the 20-time Grand Slam champion made it clear that he was "willing to pay the price" for his decision.
With restrictions being eased in France, Djokovic will participate at the upcoming Monte-Carlo Masters and in other tennis events across Europe in the coming months. The 34-year-old is also expected to be cleared to defend his title at the French Open.
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