The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Novak Djokovic is out of the Australian Open. But what about the other Grand Slams?

Novak Djokovic’s Grand Slam future in 2022 remains cloudy over his decision not to get vaccinated. (Loren Elliott/Reuters)
Placeholder while article actions load

Novak Djokovic left Australia on Sunday night after losing his legal challenge to remain in the country and compete in the Australian Open, which begins Monday.

The end of a nearly two-week-long saga that captured worldwide attention means the world’s top-ranked men’s tennis player will not get the chance to win a record 21st career Grand Slam men’s singles title in an event he has won nine times.

Djokovic remains tied with Rafael Nadal (who is competing in Melbourne) and Roger Federer (who is not because of a knee injury) with 20 career titles, and he will have to wait several months for his next opportunity.

If Djokovic remains unvaccinated, will he face similar challenges at the year’s other Grand Slam events? Here is what to know about the policies in place for the other major tournaments and how Djokovic might be affected.

Players to watch at the Australian Open beyond Novak Djokovic

French Open

In France, the debate over unvaccinated athletes has come as the country is moving ahead with plans to make vaccination mandatory for many public venues, including sports stadiums.

Initially, on Jan. 7, French sports minister Roxana Maracineanu said Djokovic would be allowed to play at the French Open even if he were not vaccinated, because the country still allows unvaccinated visitors to enter, albeit with tougher restrictions.

“He would not follow the same organizational arrangements as those who are vaccinated,” Maracineanu told FranceInfo radio. “But he will nonetheless be able to compete [at Roland Garros] because the protocols, the health bubble, allows it.”

But the vaccination pass recently pushed forward by President Emmanuel Macron’s government does not appear to provide for such exemptions. Macron said Jan. 4 that he wants to make daily life more inconvenient for unvaccinated residents.

“I am not for pissing off the French … however, the unvaccinated, I really want to piss them off,” he said in an interview published in the French newspaper Le Parisien. “I’m not going to throw [the unvaccinated] in prison. I’m not going to get them vaccinated by force. … We put pressure on the unvaccinated by limiting their access to social activities as much as possible.”

Unvaccinated visitors to France must present a compelling reason for their travel and provide evidence of a negative coronavirus test taken less than 48 hours before departure. They also must test again upon arrival, quarantine for at least a week and test again at the end of their quarantine.

While the latest French rules could bar many unvaccinated athletes from participating in French competitions, the plans have also raised questions over fairness, as a number of widely used vaccines are not recognized by French authorities. There may also be exemptions for those who recently recovered from the virus, which could allow Djokovic to participate even if he remains unvaccinated. Further clarification on those exemptions is expected later this month and French authorities have cautioned that rules could still change in the coming months.

This year’s French Open begins May 22. Djokovic is the defending champion and has won the tournament twice.

Wimbledon

If Djokovic wishes to travel to England this summer to play at Wimbledon as an unvaccinated person, he will have to take a coronavirus test two days before traveling to the country, quarantine for 10 days and take more coronavirus tests on the second and eighth days of his quarantine.

Those are the travel rules for foreign visitors set by the British government. It remains to be seen whether the All England Club will set its own requirements for participation in the tournament or merely follow the government guidance.

Djokovic has six Wimbledon titles and won last year’s tournament. This year’s event starts June 27.

U.S. Open

Djokovic’s unvaccinated status could be problematic when it comes time for the U.S. Open, a tournament he has won three times. Visitors to the United States must be fully vaccinated if not a U.S. citizen, U.S. national, lawful permanent resident or traveling to the United States on an immigrant visa.

There are exceptions to this rule, but most of them would not seem to apply to Djokovic. He could claim to have a documented medical contraindication to receiving a coronavirus vaccine or could seek a humanitarian or emergency exception from the U.S. government.

People from countries that have limited coronavirus vaccine availability also may seek an exception to the vaccination requirement, but Djokovic’s home nation of Serbia is not on the list of such countries (nearly all of them are in Africa).

Rick Noack contributed to this report, which has been updated.

Loading...