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Novak Djokovic's US Open controversy: A mess of his own making

Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic's US Open controversy: A mess of his own making
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Aayush Majumdar
The Serb in action at the 2021 US Open
The Serb in action at the 2021 US Open

Novak Djokovic once again finds himself right in the midst of a heated debate ahead of a Grand Slam tournament that has hardly anything to do with tennis itself or his chances of winning the tournament. With the clock ticking and opinions divided regarding his participation at the upcoming US Open, it is deja vu for the tennis world, with memories of the Australian Open saga still quite fresh.

As things stand, the 21-time Grand Slam champion cannot enter the United States as he remains unvaccinated against COVID-19. The US vaccine mandate requires double vaccination as an entry criterion for foreign visitors into the country.

The Serb has stated his stance against taking the vaccine himself, meaning that the only way he can participate in the US Open is through a change in the regulations themselves or by receiving an 'exemption' from those regulations.

Djokovic himself hinted at those possibilities, most recently after winning his seventh Wimbledon title.

"I'm not vaccinated and I'm not planning to get vaccinated. The only good news I can have is that they eliminate that protocol that only people who are vaccinated or have some exemption can enter the country. I do not know if it will be possible," Djokovic said in a press conference after the Wimbledon final.

As the focus was set to shift from Wimbledon to the US Open, those comments quickly attracted varied opinions and statements on the matter, with the issue taking a political turn in recent weeks, much like the Australian Open saga in January.

Earlier this week, US representative Claudia Tenney wrote a letter addressing the US Secretary of State and the US government, urging them to grant Djokovic a 'National Interest Exemption' to enter the country and play at the US Open.

Today, I’m urging the Biden administration to issue a National Interest Exemption so that world renowned tennis star Novak Djokovic and any other international athlete can compete in the US Open. Biden should then DROP the ridiculous mandate altogether! (1/2) https://t.co/YGpUHutXoO

Last week, the Serb, who was seen working hard on a hardcourt back home, once again expressed hope at getting "any room for me" to travel to the US. The underlying sentiment there, many in the worldwide tennis fan community argued, was again the Serb's reluctance to get vaccinated and that another major controversy could have been avoided had he just taken the jab.

At the same time, it cannot be denied that, like everyone else, Djokovic also had the option of 'my body, my choice.' He made the choice of not injecting his body with the vaccine, to the extent that he was ready to miss the biggest events in the world.

"I understand that not being vaccinated today, I am unable to travel to most of the tournaments at the moment. Yes, that is the price that I'm willing to pay. Because the principles of decision making on my body are more important than any title or anything else," the 35-year-old said earlier this year to the BBC, in the aftermath of the Australian Open.
"That is the price that I'm willing to pay"Novak Djokovic says he would rather miss out on future tennis trophies than be forced to get a Covid vaccinebbc.in/3LuHko9 https://t.co/6Q96BWnlYY

This is something he has reiterated on other occasions as well, standing firm with his beliefs and his choice. On those lines, many argued that Djokovic could have continued to live by the consequences of his own decision and not push for an exemption or a change in the rules.

It would thus avoid another controversial build-up to a Grand Slam tournament, where the focus has shifted away from tennis. While the tournament will certainly be richer with the inclusion of one of the all-time greats, is it worth so much tension?

Meanwhile, the United States Tennis Association (USTA), organizers of the final Grand Slam of the tennis season, have been on the receiving end of a lot of backlash for 'barring the Serb from entering the tournament.' The organizers, however, clarified that the tournament itself has no vaccination requirements for players, but they will accept the government's decision and mandate, whichever way it goes.

Novak Djokovic will do everything he can to play the US Open, says his coach Goran Ivanisevic

2021 US Open - Day 12
2021 US Open - Day 12

As the clock continues to tick on Novak Djokovic's US Open participation, his coach and former Wimbledon champion Goran Ivanisevic confirmed in a recent interview that the Serbian superstar is trying everything he can to be able to play the final Grand Slam tournament of the season. Ivanisevic hinted that the three-time US Open champion might even get a special visa.

He also expressed 'zero hope' of a change in government regulations, thereby allowing unvaccinated non-Americans such as Djokovic entry into the US.

"Novak will do everything to be there, maybe he will get a special visa. But there are only two weeks. And, personally, I have zero hope that [Joe] Biden will change the rules before the tournament starts," Ivanisevic said.

The World No. 7 has already withdrawn from next week's Canadian Open - a Masters 1000 event in Montreal - as Canadian rules have not yet changed to allow unvaccinated travelers to enter the country.

With no change to Canadian law, Djokovic pulls out the day before the draw. twitter.com/sportshorn/sta…

Also Checkout:- US Open 2022 Results


Edited by Keshav Gopalan
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