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PARIS, Jan 17 (Reuters) – Novak Djokovic is at risk of being kicked out of tennis as he chases a record 21st Grand Slam title, with rules for travelers who have not been vaccinated against COVID-19 entering the third year of the pandemic tightening and some tournaments reconsidering waivers.
The Serb, who has not been vaccinated, was deported from Australia before the Australian Open on Sunday after losing a lawsuit to overturn his visa withdrawal.
Under Australian law, Djokovic can’t get a new visa for three years – denying him the chance to extend his nine titles at Melbourne Park – but the government has left the door open to a possible return next year. read more
However, the world number one faces more immediate hurdles in his attempt to overtake Swiss Roger Federer and Spaniard Rafa Nadal, with whom he holds 20 major titles, as things stand as things stand now. could be excluded from the French Open.
France’s sports ministry said on Monday there would be no exemption from a new vaccine pass law passed Sunday that requires people to have vaccination certificates to enter public places such as restaurants, cafes and cinemas.
“This applies to anyone who is a spectator or professional athlete. And this until further notice,” the ministry said.
“As for Roland Garros, it is in May. The situation may change between now and then and we hope it will be more favourable. So we will see, but there is clearly no exception.”
The ministry’s attitude was welcomed by the world’s number three, Alexander Zverev, of Germany.
“At least it’s clear what’s going to happen,” he told reporters after winning his opening game at Melbourne Park on Monday. “At least they say, ‘Okay, unvaccinated players aren’t allowed to play in the French Open.’
“We now know that in advance, and I can imagine there will be no exceptions, and that’s okay.”
The next tournament on Djokovic’s calendar is likely to be the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships from February 21-26.
An event spokesperson told Reuters that all players must pass PCR negative tests before being allowed to enter the United Arab Emirates.
“(Players) will then have to adhere to the testing protocols and processes established by the ATP and the WTA,” the spokesperson added.
The organizers of the Monte Carlo Masters, which Djokovic has won twice, are awaiting guidance from the French government for the next edition in April, while Wimbledon organizer AELTC also has yet to finalize safety arrangements for the major.
However, the English Lawn Tennis Association said the entry requirements for its events, some of which serve as a Wimbledon warm-up, would be set by the government.
Currently, unvaccinated people can enter England but must be isolated for 10 days.
A US Open representative said last week that the final major of the year would follow guidelines from the New York City Department of Health.
In fact, Djokovic could struggle to enter the United States, as foreign air travelers have been required to be fully vaccinated and provide proof before boarding since November, with limited exceptions.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have said there are no exceptions to vaccine requirements “for religious reasons or other moral beliefs.”
That rule could also affect Djokovic’s participation in American hard court tournaments in Indian Wells and Miami in March.
The Serb, who is among the three ATP players in the top 100 yet to be vaccinated, could also face difficulties ahead of the Italian Open in Rome in May due to strict anti-COVID restrictions in Italy.
Madrid Mayor Jose Luis Martinez-Almeida told La Sexta TV station on Monday that it would be “great” to have Djokovic play in the Madrid Open from April 26 to May 8, which he won three times, although the government would be the arbiter.
Spain requires visitors to prove they have been vaccinated, recently tested negative or have immunity based on recovery.
Reporting by Julien Pretot and Shrivathsa Sridhar; Editing by Ed Osmond and Ken Ferris
Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
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