After visa drama kept him out of the Australian Open and eventual champion Rafael Nadal knocked him out of the French, Novak Djokovic finally nabbed another major win Sunday at Wimbledon and moved ahead of Roger Federer on the all-time grand slam wins list.
However, his successful weekend served as a reminder of frustrations ahead: Djokovic has acknowledged that he likely won’t be able to play in the U.S. Open next month due to his vaccination status. The United States currently “requires proof of vaccination against the coronavirus for nonimmigrant noncitizens to enter the country,” The Washington Post reported.
On Sunday, Djokovic confirmed that he has no plans to get vaccinated in order to play. The former world No. 1 has previously said he doesn’t identify as anti-vax, but supports “an individual’s right to choose,” according to the BBC.
“I’m not vaccinated, and I’m not planning to get vaccinated,” Djokovic said Sunday after his big win. “I don’t think exemption is realistically possible. ... I think it’s just whether or not they remove this in time for me to get to USA.”
If he remains unvaccinated, Djokovic could also miss the 2023 Australian Open, as The Washington Post noted. Reporter Chuck Culpepper pointed out that ongoing conflict over COVID-19 vaccination could leave a permanent mark on tennis’ record books.
“Just as the history of women’s tennis went misshapen in 1993 for an unforeseeable outside cause — a deranged fan of Steffi Graf stabbing the rival, Monica Seles, who had surpassed Graf to No. 1 — the history of men’s tennis may go twisted with a pandemic,” he said.
Former tennis star and current tennis commentator John McEnroe called on the government to let Djokovic play in the U.S. Open during Sunday’s Wimbledon broadcast.
“These politicians are getting in the way too much,” he said, according to Yahoo Sports. “Let’s let the guy come in and play in the U.S. I mean, come on. This is ridiculous.”
COVID-19 policies have affected many other sports leagues and professional athletes over the past two years. For example, NBA star Kyrie Irving had to sit out most of the Brooklyn Nets’ home games last season due to his refusal to get vaccinated.
“I think there are a lot of people dealing with real consequences from being unvaccinated,” Irving told ESPN in May after New York City’s vaccine mandate affecting the Nets was lifted. “It’s a whole community of us that really want to stand together.”
In that interview, he acknowledged that his unvaccinated status had held the team back.
“Me being in and out hasn’t helped in terms of our continuity and guys being in and out of the lineup,” Irving said.