'Disgraceful': Novak Djokovic vaccination twist divides tennis world

Wimbledon officials have confirmed that unvaccinated players such as Novak Djokovic will be allowed to compete at this year's grand slam. Pic: AAP
Wimbledon officials have confirmed that unvaccinated players such as Novak Djokovic will be allowed to compete at this year's grand slam. Pic: AAP

Tennis officials have confirmed that Novak Djokovic will be allowed to defend his Wimbledon title in 2022, in news that has divided fans around the world.

All England Club officials confirmed players will not be required to be vaccinated to compete at this year's tournament, paving the way for the World No.1 to play.

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The unvaccinated Djokovic was famously deported from Australia after being denied entry into the country and failing in his court bid to compete at the Australian Open in January.

An 11-day saga over Djokovic's entry visa ended with the tennis champion being deported for failing to meet Australia's strict Covid-19 vaccination requirements.

The World No.1, who defeated Matteo Berrettini to win his sixth Wimbledon crown last year, has played only three tournaments in 2022 because of entry restrictions imposed by various countries, including his deportation from Australia.

He was also barred from competing at the recent United States hardcourt tournaments in Indian Wells and Miami.

With most nations relaxing their rules around the virus though, Djokovic should be free to play a full schedule through the clay and grass-court stretches, although he is currently still unable to enter the USA.

Speaking at Wimbledon’s spring briefing, chief executive Sally Bolton said: “As you will be aware, the requirements set out by government to enter the UK do not include mandatory vaccination and, therefore, while of course it is encouraged, it will not be a conditional entry to compete at the Championships this year.”

Last year’s Covid-related restrictions, which included reduced crowds for most of the tournament and strict conditions imposed on the players, will all be lifted.

Seen here, Novak Djokovic holds up the 2021 Wimbledon trophy after winning the final against Matteo Berrettini.
Novak Djokovic is free to defend his 2021 Wimbledon title with no restrictions being placed on unvaccinated players for this year's grand slam tournament. Pic: Getty

Bolton said: “We are planning to return to a normal Championships this year. And so we don’t intend to implement any of the Covid-19 measures that we saw last year in any substantial fashion.

“But we are, of course, keeping it on our radar in case we need to take further action when we continue to engage with DCMS, public health officials and with other sports.

“But this means that players will be able to return to their own choice of accommodation. We will see full capacity crowds for the whole event. And we’re absolutely thrilled to welcome back the wider tennis family to Wimbledon this year.”

Wimbledon call divides tennis fans

While many tennis fans have hailed the decision as a win for Djokovic and his right to freedom of choice, others have slammed Wimbledon officials for what they're calling a "disgraceful" decision.

with agencies

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