Supporters of Novak Djokovic has taken to social media in anger, after the 21-time major winner confirmed that he would not be playing in the US Open grand slam.
Djokovic has had to admit defeat in his bid to play at the US Open, accepting that his unvaccinated status means he can't travel to New York for next week's grand slam.
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The 21-time major champion, who'd been dreaming of drawing level with Rafael Nadal's record mark of 22 at Flushing Meadows, had hoped the US authorities might change long-standing rules to allow non-citizens without a coronavirus vaccine to enter.
The 35-year-old's hopes of competing at Flushing Meadows looked dead and buried after a key change on the website of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The CDC website previously said under the 'travel' section: "The CDC is reviewing this page to align with updated guidance."
That came after the CDC changed a number of domestic rules which saw unvaccinated citizens granted the same rights as those who are vaccinated.
However, the website this week updated it to state that overseas travellers must be fully-vaccinated in order to enter the country, all but ending Djokovic's hopes of competing.
Just hours before the official draw for the tournament (getting underway in New York on Monday) was made, Djokovic announced on social media that he was withdrawing.
"Sadly, I will not be able to travel to NY this time for US Open. Thank you #NoleFam for your messages of love and support," Djokovic said on Twitter.
"Good luck to my fellow players! I'll keep in good shape and positive spirit and wait for an opportunity to compete again. See you soon tennis world!"
Sadly, I will not be able to travel to NY this time for US Open. Thank you #NoleFam for your messages of love and support. ❤️ Good luck to my fellow players! I’ll keep in good shape and positive spirit and wait for an opportunity to compete again. 💪🏼 See you soon tennis world! 👋🏼
— Novak Djokovic (@DjokerNole) August 25, 2022
The Wimbledon champion, who was also banned from playing in the Australian Open due to his anti-vaccination stance, said after his SW19 success in July that he was waiting "hopefully for some good news from USA".
That good news didn't come for him although he remained on the entry list in the vain hope of a late change of heart from authorities.
The United States Tennis Association (USTA) described Djokovic's absence as "unfortunate" but said it looked forward to having him back next year.
"Novak is a great champion and it is very unfortunate that he will be unable to compete at the 2022 US Open, as he is unable to enter the country due to the federal government's vaccination policy for non-US citizens," said US Open tournament director Stacey Allaster.
"We look forward to welcoming Novak back at the 2023 US Open."
Fans were left livid by the decision, with many deeply critical of the US government's policy for unvaccinated visitors to the United States.
There is zero scientific justification for Novak Djokovic to be banned from the US open.
None. The CDC even admitted it themselves
— Sophie Corcoran (@sophielouisecc) August 25, 2022
— Adam Brooks 🇬🇧 (@EssexPR) August 25, 2022
If this was Serena instead of Djokovic, ESPN, most of the players, and the U.S. Open itself would all have their pitchforks and tiki torches out ready to go to war to have this changed, and the federal government would have instantly caved…#Truth https://t.co/2YR4qCZAde
— John Ziegler (@Zigmanfreud) August 25, 2022
Novak Djokovic's exclusion from the US Open is utterly ludicrous. In 2021, when everybody had to show proof of vaccination, he could play. In 2022, with restrictions rolled back, he is barred. This is a decision rooted not in science but in pandemic puritanism.
— Oliver Brown (@oliverbrown_tel) August 25, 2022
It’s absolutely absurd that Novak Djokovic can’t enter the US to play in the US Open.
It’s not based on science, purely political.
— Chris Rose (@ArchRose90) August 25, 2022
What an absolute joke not to allow the best tennis player of his generation not play in the U.S. Open because he isn’t vaccinated. Djokovic had Covid. We’ve seen the vaccine does not stop the spread of the virus. And it’s TENNIS, a sport that socially distances players outdoors. https://t.co/ZChE0qtZZr
— Joe Concha (@JoeConchaTV) August 25, 2022
Yet Djokovic cannot play in the US Open. Unbelievable, they are not even pretending to follow their own science... pic.twitter.com/sHIcLMNICu
— Dr. Eli David (@DrEliDavid) August 25, 2022
Novak Djokovic absence opens up men's draw
Djokovic's absence means Nadal now has the chance to again open up a two-slam gap over Djokovic in their battle at the top of the all-time list of men's major titles.
The rest of the field, headed by defending champion Daniil Medvedev and Australian Wimbledon finalist Nick Kyrgios, will also find their title hopes boosted significantly without the presence of the three-time US Open champ.
The 35-year-old Djokovic has been steadfast in saying he won't get vaccinated against Covid-19, even if that prevents him from playing in the biggest events.
Djokovic missed the Melbourne Park slam at the start of the year amid a dramatic legal and political saga during which he was kept in detention before eventually being deported from the country.
He's also missed four big tournaments in North America in 2022, including in Montreal and Cincinnati recently.
After beating Kyrgios in the Wimbledon final on July 10, Djokovic had said he "would love" to participate at Flushing Meadows but added, "I'm not planning to get vaccinated."
Djokovic is currently No.6 in the world rankings, with no points having been awarded at Wimbledon, but may well have started favourite to win a fourth singles crown.
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