Tennis fans have hit out at US authorities for denying Novak Djokovic an exemption to compete at the Miami Open, which gets underway next week. Tournament director James Blake said organisers of the American hard court tennis event tried everything in their power to secure an exemption so the World No.1 could compete.
The Serb is not vaccinated against Covid-19, meaning Djokovic is currently forbidden from entering the USA as an unvaccinated foreign traveler. Those restrictions are due to end in April, and the 35-year-old had hoped to gain special dispensation to play in the US this month.
The Serb was already forced to pull out of Indian Wells, meaning he could be replaced as World No.1 if semi-finalist Carlos Alcaraz is able to win the Masters 1000 tournament. Djokovic was hoping for a different outcome for the Miami Open, but has once again been left disappointed by the decision from US authorities.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis had been lobbying hard for Djokovic to be granted an exemption to play in Miami after tweeting: “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.”
The Florida Governor even made a wild claim that he would smuggle the Serb into the USA via boat, after taking aim at the Biden administration’s ban on unvaccinated foreigners arriving into the country on planes. “I would run a boat from the Bahamas here for him. I would do that a hundred percent,” DeSantis said at a recent press conference.
However, efforts to allow Djokovic to enter the United States have ultimately proved fruitless. Miami Open tournament director James Blake confirmed that the 22-time grand slam champion would be unable to participate, due to his unvaccinated status.
“We’re one of the premier tournaments in the world, we’d like to have the best players that can play,” Blake said in an interview with the Tennis Channel. “We did all that we could. We tried to talk to the government, but that’s out of our hands. We tried, and he wasn’t able to play.
“Same result that he had in Indian Wells, where I know (fellow tournament director) Tommy Haas did as much as he could. We tried to get Novak Djokovic to be allowed to get an exemption, but that wasn’t able to happen.
“We’d love to have him, and he’s our greatest champion, he’s won six times here. Unfortunately, that’s way above my pay grade.”
Seen here, Novak Djokovic hitting a shot during the quarter-finals of the Dubai Tennis Championships.
Novak Djokovic hits a shot during the quarter-finals of the Dubai Tennis Championships.