John McEnroe slams ‘absurd’ regulation preventing Novak Djokovic from playing at US events

Novak Djokovic press conference Credit: Alamy
Novak Djokovic press conference Credit: Alamy

John McEnroe has hit out at the United States’ current entry regulations that are preventing Novak Djokovic from playing at the upcoming Sunshine Double.

Unvaccinated foreigners are not allowed to enter the United States and with Djokovic opting not to get vaccinated against Covid-19, it means he won’t be able to play at the Indian Wells Open or the Miami Open.

However, the regulations are set to change in May and that will pave the way for the 22-time Grand Slam winner to compete at the US Open later this year.

Djokovic, though, has not given up hope of playing at the two ATP Masters 1000 events in March as he has applied for an exemption to be allowed to enter the US, but it remains to be seen if he will be successful.

It has been a rollercoaster two years for Djokovic as he was unable to defend his Australian Open title in 2021 due to his unvaccinated status, but his three- year visa ban was lifted this year and he went on to win the title. After being allowed to play in American events in 2020, Djokovic was unable to enter the country last year, again due to his unvaccinated status.

Seven-time Grand Slam winner and ESPN analyst McEnroe admits he bewildered by the whole situation.

“It would be absurd if he couldn’t play Indian Wells or Miami or any other tournament in the US,” the former world No 1 said during a conference call with Forbes.

He added: “It’s absurd they threw him out of Australia last year. I have had my vaccines, I respect that he’s chosen not to do it. I would’ve done it, but that’s a whole other issue…

“He played [the US Open] in 2021 and then wasn’t allowed to play in 2022, someone explain that to me. And now he’s still not permitted to play, I mean it’s absurd.”

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McEnroe’s brother and former US Davis Cup captain Patrick hopes Djokovic is successful in his attempt to get an exemption to play at the Indian Wells and Miami events.

“I hope he does get an exemption,” he said. “I hope he can get into the country to play. I mean, I’m no doctor or no expert but it does seem like we’re past most of the pandemic, knock on wood.

“He’s able to go to any other country to play at this point and my understanding is that the President [Biden] has announced that many of these regulations will be withdrawn I believe in May. Whether or not Novak’s able to gt the exemption before that is up in the air.

“For the good of the sport, for tennis, I think everybody would like to see him be able to play whatever tournaments he wants to play.”

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