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Still unvaccinated, Novak Djokovic seeks special entry to United States

Novak Djokovic said he hopes to be allowed entry to the United States despite his unvaccinated status. (Darko Vojinovic/AP)
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Tennis star Novak Djokovic, who remains unvaccinated against the coronavirus, said Wednesday that he hopes U.S. authorities will grant him an exemption to enter the country to play tournaments in California and Florida next month.

The Transportation Security Administration has extended the requirement that foreign air travelers be fully vaccinated against the virus through April 10. Indian Wells (March 6-19) and the Miami Open (March 20 to April 2) are two of the more prestigious non-Grand Slam tournaments on the calendar, and Djokovic hopes to play.

“Everything is currently in the process,” Djokovic said at his training ground in Belgrade, Serbia (via the Associated Press). “I have a big desire to be there. I am really thankful to the Indian Wells and Miami tournament [officials] and community for their support publicly, and they would like me to be able to play in their tournaments.”

The 35-year-old, one of the highest-profile unvaccinated athletes, was deported from Australia because of his vaccination status just before the 2022 Australian Open. Australia lifted its mandate in July and Djokovic’s three-year ban from the country was overturned in November, freeing him to return this year and win the tournament for the 10th time. That victory was his 22nd in Grand Slam singles play and placed him in a tie with Rafael Nadal for the most by a men’s player.

Djokovic, who tied Steffi Graf’s record with 377 weeks at the top of the world rankings this week, noted that his career-defining rival is Nadal, despite the rise of 19-year-old phenom Carlos Alcaraz, who had been at the top of the rankings before an injury kept him out of the Australian Open.

“[Alcaraz] is arguably the next biggest thing in our sport — or he’s already there,” Djokovic said. “I just feel that the rivalry with Nadal is something that is difficult to eliminate. Nadal has been the biggest rival, and he probably will remain the biggest rival I ever had in my career.”