French Open makes bombshell call on Novak Djokovic participation

Novak Djokovic, pictured here after winning the French Open in 2021.
Novak Djokovic has been given the green light to defend his French Open title. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Novak Djokovic has been given the green light to compete at the French Open in a massive boost for the defending champion.

Roland Garros organisers said on Wednesday that Djokovic will be allowed to compete as the tournament prepares to stage what is expected to be the first grand slam without any Covid-19 related restrictions since the pandemic broke two years ago.

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Djokovic's continued refusal to get the Covid jab means he is limited in the tournaments he can play.

But his ability to play the French Open will be a massive boost for the 20-time grand slam champion as he looks to keep pace with Rafa Nadal - who won a men's record 21st major at the Australian Open.

France has lifted restrictions in almost all public spaces - except hospitals, nursing homes and public transport - meaning the Roland Garros stadium should be operating at full capacity with Djokovic taking it to the red dirt courts.

"As things stand, nothing stands in the way of Djokovic taking part in the French Open," tournament director Amelie Mauresmo told a news conference on Wednesday.

Djokovic was unable to defend his Australian Open title in January after being deported from the country after being initially admitted to the tournament despite not being vaccinated.

The 34-year-old was also barred from this month's ATP 1000 tournaments at Indian Wells and Miami, unable to enter the United States without proof of vaccination.

While that is not required to enter France or any sporting event in the country, French tennis federation (FFT) president Gilles Moretton warned things could change before the tournament starts on May 22.

"There's still a virus circulating and we have to be cautious," he said.

"If things were to happen again and the government would take new measures we would not be excluded from these measures."

Novak Djokovic, pictured here with the French Open trophy after winning the title in 2021.
Novak Djokovic poses with the French Open trophy after winning the title in 2021. (Photo by CHRISTOPHE ARCHAMBAULT/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Russian players allowed to play at French Open

Russian players, including World No.2 Daniil Medvedev, will also be admitted to play in the tournament but will have to do so as neutral athletes because of the war in Ukraine.

Asked whether Russian players will be allowed to compete at the tournament in the light of the war in Ukraine, organisers said they plan to stick to decisions suspending Russia and ally Belarus but allowing their players to compete as neutral athletes.

The seven groups that run the sport around the world have condemned the war, cancelling events in Russia and Belarus, kicking those two nations out of the Billie Jean King Cup and Davis Cup team competitions, and announcing on March 1 that players from those countries will be allowed to compete in WTA, ATP and grand slam tournaments but not under the name or flag of Russia or Belarus.

“We are holding this line," said Amelie Oudea-Castera, the French tennis federation director general.

Daniil Medvedev, pictured here leaving the court after losing to Gael Monfils at Indian Wells.
Daniil Medvedev leaves the court after losing to Gael Monfils at Indian Wells. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

Wimbledon organisers are having conversations with the British government about whether Russian players should be allowed to compete at the grass-court tournament this year if they don’t distance themselves from President Vladimir Putin.

Oudea-Castera said French organisers don't plan to start a detailed and individualised analysis of players' individual situations, which “can be extraordinarily dependent on the family situations experienced by each of them."

Russia invaded Ukraine on Febuary 24, the day Medvedev moved to the top of the ATP rankings for the first time while competing at the Mexico Open.

“Watching the news from home, waking up here in Mexico, was not easy,” Medvedev said.

“By being a tennis player, I want to promote peace all over the world. We play in so many different countries; I’ve been in so many countries as a junior and as a pro. It’s just not easy to hear all this news. ... I’m all for peace.”

Medvedev has since surrendered the No.1 spot back to Djokovic after a shock loss at Indian Wells.

Tennis fans were left heavily divided on whether or not Djokovic should be allowed to play in Paris.

with agencies

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