Novak Djokovic looks certain to miss upcoming events at Indian Wells and Miami in a crushing new blow for the Australian Open champion. Djokovic won his 10th Australian Open title on Sunday night, beating Stefanos Tsitsipas in straight sets in the final.
In doing so he won his 22nd career major, going equal with Rafa Nadal for the men's all-time record. The victory came 12 months after Djokovic was infamously deported from Australia in 2022 due to his vaccination status.
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But the vaccination drama isn't behind him just yet, with news emerging on Tuesday that he won't be able to enter the United States in March for ATP 1000 events at Indian Wells and Miami. The White House has confirmed that it intends to terminate the public health and national emergencies for addressing the Covid-19 pandemic on May 11.
That means Djokovic will be free to play the US Open in September, but it won't come soon enough to allow him to play Indian Wells and Miami. The Masters 1000 events are seen as the biggest tournaments on the tennis calendar outside the four grand slams.
In 2022, Djokovic missed all events in the United States and Canada due to requirements for overseas visitors to show proof of vaccination. Speaking after his Australian Open triumph, the 35-year-old said about Indian Wells: "You know my position, so it is what it is. I'm hoping (to play), but if I can't go, I can't go."
Indian Wells tournament director Tommy Haas previously said it would be 'a disgrace' if Djokovic wasn't able to play for the second year running. "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.
"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."
Novak Djokovic sets sights on Margaret Court's record
While the news about Indian Wells and Miami will come as a bitter blow, Djokovic will be relieved to be able to play at the US Open this year. He is currently tied with Nadal on 22 career grand slam titles, but many believe he will eventually end up with the most of any male player.
When asked on Sunday night if he believes he can overhaul Margaret Court's women's record of 24, Djokovic said: "Of course I am motivated to win as many slams as possible. At this stage of my career, these trophies are the biggest motivational factor of why I still compete. That's the case without a doubt.
"I still have lots of motivation. Let's see how far it takes me. I really don't want to stop here. I don't have intention to stop here."
Coach Goran Ivanisevic reckons Djokovic can play on for at least two or three more years, but Djokovic is placing no limits on how long he can keep competing. He said: "I feel great about my tennis. I know that when I'm feeling good physically, mentally present, I have a chance to win any slam against anybody. I like my chances going forward.
"I don't know how many more years I'm going to play or how many more slams I'm going to play. It depends on various things. It doesn't depend only on my body.
"It's extremely important for me to be, of course, first to have the support and love from the close ones, and ability to go and play and keep the balance with the private life.
"But at the same time I have the mental clarity or - how should I say - aspirations to really strive to chase these trophies. Physically I can keep myself fit. Of course, 35 is not 25, even though I want to believe it is. But I still feel there is time ahead of me. Let's see how far I go."
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