Djokovic and a return to Australia: a growing possibility
The US Open is now looking like a pipe dream, but a return to the Australian Open is a real possibility.
As CLAY understands, there is a good chance that Novak Djokovic gets to play at the Australian Open 2023, while his participation at the US Open this fall remains a distant possibility.
Having won his seventh Wimbledon title, Djokovic celebrated in front of several thousands people in Belgrade, and then went to Visoko – in Bosnia and Herzegovina – to open the new regional tennis center.
He is enjoying himself – Djokovic traditionally takes a vacation after Wimbledon. This time, though, it might last more that he is used to as the world of tennis wonders whether he will be able to play at the US Open starting 29th August and Australian Open the following year, two next major tournaments in calendar.
US Open: Hope dies last, but…
As of today, unvaccinated foreigners are not allowed to enter the USA, and Djokovic confirmed that he does not plan to get vaccinated.
“I will wait hopefully for some good news from the USA because I would really love to go there. The only good news I can have is them removing the vaccine mandate”, Djokovic told reporters following his victory over Nick Kyrgios in Wimbledon finals.
Djokovic did receive support from the USA, most notably from four-times US Open champion John Mcenroe.
“These politicians are getting in the way too much. They did it in Australia. Let’s let the guy come in and play in the U.S. I mean come on. This is ridiculous”, McEnroe said.
Earlier, fellow player Tennys Sandgren – unvaccinated US citizen who will be eligible to play in New York – expressed his disgruntlement with the USTA not asking for exemption for Djokovic.
“Pretty shameful that the USTA won’t fight for an exemption for Novak. No surprise the government hasn’t changed its’ archaic policy. I can play but he can’t? Ridiculous”, Sandgren wrote on Twitter.
Earlier during Wimbledon, Djokovic said that he texted with Sandgren thanking him for sticking up for him.
“What he (Sandgren) said makes total sense – if unvaccinated players are not allowed to compete at the US Open, then it should be the case for everyone. I don’t see the medical logic behind it, that Tennys can play because he is a citizen of the USA, and I cannot. If I had a US passport or a green card, I would be able to play. Maybe there is a political logic behind it – not medical – but I would rather not get into that and you can understand why.”
The public health argument particularly weakens in the light of virtually no Covid measures at this year’s Roland Garros and Wimbledon, but even more so in light of admission by Alize Cornet that herself and several other players were Covid positive during Roland Garros. Furthermore, there have been rumors during Wimbledon of Covid infections among players still in the draw.
On the other hand, the issue for unvaccinated players lies with the US government, not with the USTA, which won’t have a problem with (unvaccinated) Sandgren participating. Therefore, it is understandable why Sandgren himself and some people in the media were wondering why the USTA was reluctant to apply for an exemption for Djokovic.
„For the US Open there is not much time, but hope dies last. Even if I do not play, it’s not the end of the world“, Novak told Serbian journalists.
Australian Open: Brighter picture for Novak?
As far as the Australian open goes, things look more hopeful for Djokovic at the moment. Recently, the new Labor government relaxed its rules on international arrivals with foreigners no longer having to declare their COVID-19 vaccination status.
Following his visa getting canceled in January, Djokovic received an automatic three-year ban from entering Australia, but the ban could be lifted, particularly with rules that led to deportation no longer in place.
New Prime Minister Anthony Albanese is said to be an avid fan of tennis. Per Daily Mail and as CLAY understands, there is a good chance that the ban will be lifted, so that Djokovic gets the opportunity to chase his record-extending tenth title in Melbourne Park.
“I think we do our best. Obviously, it is not my decision whether he will be able to play at the Australian Open, but Novak is always welcome, he knows that a lot of people in Australia love to watch him play. It is up to others to make that decision, and there is still a lot of time until the tournament”, Australian Open director Craig Tiley told “Sport Klub”.
In Belgrade, Djokovic said that he believed “things will change for Australia”, but the 21-time Grand Slam champion is taking a bigger picture approach whatever happens in the next few months.
Djokovic does not plan to stop any time soon
In terms of level, Djokovic on Sunday played his best Grand Slam final since routing Rafael Nadal in 2019 Australian Open finals – locked in and laser sharp, he withstood 30 aces and 73% of first serve from Nick Kyrgios to capture his seventh Wimbledon title (4-6 6-3 6-4 7-6), equaling him with childhood hero Pete Sampras and Bill Renshaw.
With everything that has happened previously in 2022, it is even more impressive what Djokovic has been able to do at Wimbledon, proving once again that mentally he is one of the strongest athletes in history.
At the age of 35, Djokovic does not plan to stop playing tennis any time soon. Why should he, when he is proving over and over that he is one of the best players in the world, if not the best?
“I never put a limit in regards to how long I will keep playing tennis professionally. I don’t want anyone setting it, talking about two, three or five years. Everybody in my team knows that it is a forbidden topic – nobody is allowed to ask me how much longer I will play. It is entirely up to me, and I feel it should last, particularly if I am winning Slam titles”, Djokovic told Serbian journalists in London following Wimbledon finals.
My favorite title? The next title. That is a Kobe Bryant quote Djokovic used at the famous “balcony” in Belgrade, where Serbian people traditionally gather to celebrate the success of their athletes.
The only question now is – when will Novak get to chase that next title?
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