Despite lobbying efforts by high-ranking political officials in Florida, Novak Djokovic’s request for a vaccine exemption for the Miami Open has been officially denied.
James Blake, the tournament director, expressed disappointment with the decision and confirmed the outcome in an interview with Tennis Channel on Friday, meaning Djokovic will not be able to compete for his seventh Miami Open title.
“Obviously, we’re one of the premier tournaments in the world,” Blake told Tennis Channel, according to Reuters. “We’d like to have the best players that can play. We did all that we could. We tried to talk to the government, but that’s out of our hands.”
Djokovic’s denial is a result of a Biden-enforced protocol banning unvaccinated travelers from entering the country, making the U.S. one of the few remaining countries to do so. A representative for Djokovic, who is believed to object to vaccines over safety concerns, has refused to comment any further on the absence.
Among the individuals who urged the Biden administration to grant Novak Djokovic entry into the U.S. were Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, and Senators Marco Rubio and Rick Scott.
“The only thing keeping Novak Djokovic from participating in the Miami Open tennis tournament is President Biden’s misguided and unscientific COVID-19 vaccination requirement for foreigner [sic] travelers,” DeSantis tweeted on March 7th. “Mr. President – lift your restrictions and let him compete.”
The only thing keeping Novak Djokovic from participating in the Miami Open tennis tournament is President Biden’s misguided and unscientific COVID-19 vaccination requirement for foreigner travelers.
Mr. President – lift your restrictions and let him compete. pic.twitter.com/fFyhNoUV4S
— Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis) March 7, 2023
Djokovic, who remains the top-ranked player in the world, was similarly unable to compete at both the U.S. and Australian Open in 2022 because of respective vaccine mandates. Australia has since lifted the requirement.
A U.S. Tennis Association spokesperson said Saturday that they are “very hopeful” that Djokovic will be allowed into the country for the US Open, which takes place in August.
“We are very hopeful that the policy preventing Novak Djokovic from entering the United States will be rescinded, or lapse, in the near future,” the USTA’s Chris Widmaier told The Associated Press. “No COVID-19 restrictions are in place at the U.S. Open for any player, fan, or other attendees. Novak, one of our sport’s great champions, would be welcome to compete at the 2023 U.S. Open.”
In an interview with the BBC in 2022 following his deportation from Australia, Djokovic insisted he was not completely opposed to vaccinations but had “always supported the freedom to choose what you put into your body.”
“It’s really the principle of understanding what is right and what is wrong for you,” he said. “I’ve always carefully reviewed, and assessed everything that comes in [to my body] — supplements, food, the water I drink, sports drinks — anything that comes into my body as a fuel that I can benefit from. I take that very seriously. There’s a process of precise decision-making. It has been like that for the last 20 years.”
Djokovic will now resume his preparations for the French Open in May by playing in the Srpska Open in Banja Luka, Bosnia. Meanwhile, a review of the continued vaccine requirement is expected to take place by Biden officials in April.