(LifeSiteNews) — Novak Djokovic, the current world no. 1 in men’s tennis, may miss two significant tournaments in the United States because of its continued travel ban on foreigners unvaccinated against COVID-19.
The Serbian tennis star, according to his brother Djordje, has applied for special permission to enter the country in order to play at the Indian Wells and Miami Open tournaments next month, the former of which kicks off on Monday, March 6.
Speaking to reporters in January, Indian Wells tournament director Tommy Haas stated it would be a “disgrace” if Djokovic was unable to compete.
“It would be nice to see if we could maybe lift those [restrictions] a little earlier and have him come to play Indian Wells and Miami,” he said. “I think he wants to play, so we should give him the chance. Hopefully we can have him there. I mean, it would be a disgrace in my eyes if he wasn’t coming to these events, or not allowed to come.”
For his part, Djokovic recently said at a press conference that he has a “big desire” to enter the draws at Indian Wells and the Miami Open, but acknowledged he can’t do much else other than wait to hear back on his special permission application.
“Everything is in process, and I’m really thankful to Indian Wells and Miami for their support, publicly, and they would like me to be able to play,” the tennis superstar said. “I’m really thankful for that because I have a big desire to play, because I haven’t played there for several years, so I’m looking forward to hopefully a positive decision coming sometime soon.”
“It’s not in my hands, so that’s all I can say,” he added.
On January 29, Djokovic won his 10th Australian Open title and 22nd major tournament one year after the Australian government deported him over his COVID vaccination status. The government repealed its ban on unvaccinated foreigners without an exemption visa six months after the highly publicized incident.
Although the White House announced an end to the United States’ twin COVID emergencies by May 11, it has refused to support a congressional bill that would bring an immediate end to the COVID vaccine mandate for foreign air travelers. The bill has passed the House of Representatives but will likely face opposition in the Democratic-controlled Senate.
“No free country, other than the United States, requires international visitors to prove they’ve taken the COVID-19 vaccine,” Rep. Thomas Massie said in a statement. “This vaccine mandate is keeping families separated, hurting our economy, and preventing some of the best athletes in the world from competing here. We need to join the rest of the free world in returning to normal.”
Despite current restrictions on entering the country, Djokovic will in all likelihood be able to participate in the U.S. Open later this year. He has won three U.S. Open titles but has not competed in the tournament since 2021, when he lost the championship match in straight sets to Russian tennis star Daniil Medvedev.