Novak Djokovic under fire over shock announcement during US Open

Novak Djokovic, pictured here with wife Jelena at a basketball game in Serbia.
Novak Djokovic with wife Jelena at a basketball game in Serbia. Image: Getty

Novak Djokovic is at the centre of fresh controversy in the tennis world after it was announced he will play at the Tel Aviv Open in Israel next month.

The 21-time grand slam champion isn't playing at the US Open due to his refusal to get the Covid-19 jab, with America still requiring overseas travellers to show proof of vaccination to gain entry.

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Djokovic's next event will be the Laver Cup in September, where he will team up with Roger Federer, Rafa Nadal and Andy Murray on Team Europe.

This week it was also announced that Djokovic will play the ATP 250 event in Tel Aviv, which will take place after the Laver Cup starting on September 26.

The event in Tel Aviv hasn't been part of the ATP calendar since 1996, but was brought back by the men's governing body this year after the cancellation of the Chinese swing.

Tel Aviv had an ATP event between 1978-1981 and 1983-1996, and will make its return this year after a 26-year hiatus.

Former US Open champion Dominic Thiem has also been announced as a participant, as have top stars Diego Schwartzman and Marin Cilic.

However Djokovic's decision to play in Tel Aviv has sparked backlash from fans due to Israel's ongoing conflict with Palestine.

Novak Djokovic, pictured here at a Basketball World Cup qualifying match between Turkey and Serbia.
Novak Djokovic at a Basketball World Cup qualifying match between Turkey and Serbia. (Photo by Elif Ozturk Ozgoncu/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images) (Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Many believe Djokovic's participation is a bad look considering the political tensions in the country.

The Serbian star is limited in the events he can play due to his vaccination status and will be desperate for some much-needed wins in order to climb back up the ATP rankings.

As well as being barred from the US Open, he also missed ATP 1000 events in Montreal and Cincinnati in the lead-up to the final grand slam of the year and has fallen from World No.1 to No.6 in recent months.

Rafa Nadal's brutal response to Novak Djokovic ban

Discussing the Djokovic situation at Flushing Meadows last week, Nadal politely offered his condolences to his long-time rival.

However just like he did when Djokovic was detained by border officials before the Australian Open in January, Nadal reminded the Serb that it was his choice not to comply with the rules and he therefore only has himself to blame.

"I repeat what I said plenty of times - the sport in some ways is bigger than any player," Nadal said.

"I missed a lot of important events in my tennis career because of injuries, without a doubt.

"Last year I was not here. Two years ago I was not here. The tournament continues. The world of tennis keep going.

Rafa Nadal, pictured here speaking to the media during a press conference at the US Open.
Rafa Nadal speaks to the media during a press conference at the US Open. (Photo by Frey/TPN/Getty Images) (Frey/TPN via Getty Images)

"Even if it is not a good news for everyone, the world continues and the tennis will continue after me, after Novak, after Roger (Federer). Every year will be for the slams champion. That's it.

"Without a doubt, Novak is one of the most important players of the last 20 years, the history of our sport.

"In a personal way I feel sorry for him that he's not able to travel here. But in the other hand ... (it's his choice)."

Nadal added: "From my personal perspective, it's very sad news. It's always a shame when the best players of the world are not able to play a tournament because of injuries or because of different reasons.

"It's tough for the fans, tough for the tournament. In my opinion, tough for the players, too, because we want to have the best field possible."

World No.1 Daniil Medvedev said: "It's a pity he is not here. It would be a great story for tennis.

"Not only tennis-wise, but it's not us tennis players, it's American government rules. Completely understandable also."

with AAP

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