Novak Djokovic faces huge blow as latest Covid restrictions are put in place

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

Novak Djokovic may have been hoping to play a full schedule in 2023, but it seems as if his ambitions have already been handed a huge blow.

The 20-time Grand Slam champion has endured a troubled 12 months, starting with his deportation from Australia over his decision not to be vaccinated against Covid-19.

He was then denied entry into North America for four Masters 1000 events and the US Open, costing him a chance to compete in some of the biggest tournaments in tennis.

There was an expectation that Djokovic would be allowed to play a full schedule in the new year, but the latest Covid travel restrictions being imposed by the US government suggest he will face big challenges in the coming months.

At present, unvaccinated travellers are not permitted to enter America, with any prospect of that rule changing impacted by the latest developments around Covid in China.

The United States has joined Italy, India, Taiwan, South Korea, Malaysia and Japan in announcing new measures after the abrupt end of Beijing’s zero-Covid policy sparked a surge in cases.

It also appears any prospect of any diluting of the current rules over unvaccinated travelers will not be introduced in the current climate of concern around the spread of new variants.

The current guidelines on the entry of foreign nationals to America reads as follows:

“All passengers to the United States are required to show proof of being fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Only limited exceptions apply to this requirement.”

Djokovic could apply for an exemption as he looks to enter America to play in the Indian Wells and Miami Masters events in the spring, but it is unclear what his reason would be for this exemption.

The Serbian attempted to enter Australia last year after being given an exception on the ground that he had Covid a few weeks before his arrival.

Yet that story unravelled soon after his arrival and it remains to be seen whether Djokovic would make similar attempts to get exemptions to enter America next spring and again for next summer’s US Open, if restrictions are still in place then.

“You can’t forget those events, it’s one of those things that stick with you,” said Djokovic as he looked back on his troubled last visit to Australia following his arrival in Adelaide this week.

“It stays with you for the rest of your life. It’s something I’ve never experienced before and hopefully never again, but it is a valuable life experience for me.

“But I have to move on and coming back to Australia speaks about how I feel about this country and how I feel about playing here.”

Djokovic is a strong favourite to win the Australian Open for a tenth time next month, but he could then face a long period away from the court once again as he may not be eligible to play in the key American events before the European clay court season.

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