Laying down the law on and off the court. Following Novak Djokovic’s controversial views about refusing to get the COVID-19 vaccine, the U.S. Open has made it clear that he’s not welcome to participate unless he receives the shot.
The tennis championship released a statement on Wednesday, July 20, noting that they do not have a vaccination mandate in place for their own players but will comply with the country’s position before the U.S. Open’s main draw kicks off on Monday, August 29.
“The U.S. Open does not have a vaccination mandate in place for players, but it will respect the U.S. government’s position regarding travel into the country for unvaccinated non-U.S. citizens,” the statement read, seemingly referring to Djokovic, 35, whose controversial views have made headlines amid the pandemic.
Djokovic, who won the men’s singles tournament at Wimbledon earlier this month, previously admitted he was willing to skip future tennis matches if attending meant challenging his beliefs on the vaccine.
“The principles of decision-making on my body are more important than any title, or anything else,” the Serbian athlete told the BBC in February after he was deported from Australia ahead of its Australia Open. “I understand the consequences of my decision.”
While Djokovic initially alleged he had been granted a “medical exemption” to play in the country’s January championship match without having received a vaccine, he was detained at the airport upon his arrival. He later admitted he submitted a false travel declaration.
“[The declaration] was submitted by my support team on my behalf — as I told immigration officials on my arrival — and my agent sincerely apologizes for the administrative mistake in ticking the incorrect box about my previous travel before coming to Australia,” the professional athlete wrote in an Instagram statement at the time. “We are living in challenging times in a global pandemic and sometimes these mistakes can occur.”
Djokovic previously made his feelings about the COVID-19 vaccine known nearly two years earlier.
“Personally, I am opposed to vaccination and I wouldn’t want to be forced by someone to take a vaccine in order to be able to travel,” the Serve to Win author — who shares son Stefan, 7, and daughter Tara, 4, with wife Jelena Djokovic — said during a Facebook Live session in April 2020. “But if it becomes compulsory, what will happen? I will have to make a decision.”
He added: “I have my own thoughts about the matter, and whether those thoughts will change at some point, I don’t know. Hypothetically, if the season was to resume in July, August or September, though unlikely, I understand that a vaccine will become a requirement straight after we are out of strict quarantine, and there is no vaccine yet.”