Former doubles Australian Open champion Chanda Rubin recently came out in criticism of Novak Djokovic for his last-minute withdrawal from the 2022 Indian Wells Masters. The American hoped that, for future tournaments at least, Djokovic would announce such decisions ahead of time and save himself from becoming a "negative story."
The World No. 2 announced that he was withdrawing from the ATP 1000 event (because of the existing vaccine mandate in the USA) only after the draw had been made. Understandably, the 20-time Grand Slam champion copped a lot of criticism from fans and pundits alike for this move.
Grigor Dimitrov, the highest-ranked unseeded player in the tournament, was moved up to take the 34-year-old's slot in the draw after that, leading many to claim that it made the draw unbalanced.
Speaking on the Tennis Channel, Rubin remarked that it would be better if the 20-time Grand Slam champion could avoid such controversies in the coming days, especially for tournaments whose entry requirements are already known.
"I just hope that going forward, [Novak Djokovic's last-minute withdrawal] isn't the continuing story at the beginning of every tournament where we kind of already know the regulations and requirements that are already in place," Rubin said. "With him so far being unvaccinated, that has been the big issue. Hopefully, he can at least make the decisions that he needs to make without becoming a negative story at the start of these events."
While the former World No. 6 admitted that last-minute withdrawals were okay in the event of unforeseen injuries, she did not think it was acceptable at all in the former World No. 1's case. With Novak Djokovic not even being in the same country, waiting till after the draw was made and changing "everything across the board" was a decision Rubin could not wrap her head around.
"It's one thing if you are a bit injured and you are on site, you are hoping to play, you kind of wait till the last moment. But in a case like this - you haven't traveled, you're not even on site, you're not in the place where you need to be like training or getting ready for the tournament," Rubin said. "It just seemed unlikely [that he was going to play]. To wait till a day or two before the tournament with the draw already made, that kind of changes everything across the board."
"I understand Novak Djokovic's desire to play but the challenging part is, when do you pull out?" - Paul Annacone
Chanda Rubin's co-commentator on the Tennis Channel, Paul Annacone, echoed a similar sentiment. Annacone admitted that he, like millions of tennis fans around the world, wanted Novak Djokovic to play and that the Serb had every right to wait for confirmation from the authorities before foregoing his participation.
In the same breath, however, the American raised the question of what the right time would have been for the World No. 2 to make the news public.
"[Novak Djokovic's late withdrawal] sure affects everybody. I understand his desire to play. Look, we all want to see him play, all the tennis fans around the world do. But the challenging part is, when do you pull out?" Annacone said. "He absolutely has the right to hang in there and hope that those regulations change and see what he can find out from the folks that are on his team."
The American said the 20-time Grand Slam champion should have pulled out before the draw was made on Tuesday, even if he hadn't received confirmation from the CDC before then. If he had done so, the 58-year-old noted, the top seed from qualifying would have gained entry into the main draw and someone else could have had a shot at qualifying.
"But really, Tuesday afternoon is when they make the draw. So if he didn't know by then, he should have pulled out," Annacone said. "Then we wouldn't have had anyone potentially miss out because that first person who had to play qualifying would have gotten directly into the main draw."