Novak Djokovic can't play French Open unless vaccinated, French Sports Ministry says
It's another day of bad news for Novak Djokovic. The No. 1-ranked men's singles player might not be allowed to play at the French Open, the next Grand Slam on the schedule, because of his vaccination status.
Djokovic lost his appeal on Sunday to play in the Australian Open, closing a nearly two-week long saga over his unvaccinated status and attempt to enter the country with a visa and exemption. It is the first Grand Slam on the calendar as he chases a 21st Grand Slam victory that would break a tie with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal for most men's titles of all-time.
Also on Sunday, the French parliament overwhelmingly approved a law requiring vaccination for anyone at restaurants, sports arenas and other venues. Previously unvaccinated persons were allowed to enter with a valid negative test. That incudes the French Open and the French Sports Ministry confirmed on Monday there would be no exemptions.
French Open up in air for Djokovic
The French Sports Ministry confirmed there would be no exemptions to Reuters, but said the overall situation might change before the draw in May. Via Reuters:
"This will apply to everyone who is a spectator or a professional sportsperson. And this until further notice," the ministry said.
"As far as Roland Garros is concerned, it's in May. The situation may change between now and then and we hope it'll be more favourable. So we'll see but clearly there's no exemption."
Australia allowed exemptions as granted by an expert independent panel. Djokovic received initial clearance for a visa, but was detained and the information found to be insufficient. The star appealed to no avail and was deported ahead of Day 1 of the tournament. Australia is experiencing rising cases after two years of strict measures and border restrictions. France is 90% vaccinated.
Alexander Zverev, the No. 3 ranked player in the world appreciated the clear stance from the French Open.
"At least it's clear what's going to happen," he told reporters on Monday, via Reuters. "At least they're saying, 'OK, no unvaccinated players are allowed to play in the French Open.'
"We know that now in advance, and I can imagine there's not going to be any exemptions, and that's OK."
The German defeated Daniel Altmaier 7-6 (3), 6-1, 7-6 (1) to move into the second round of the Australian Open.
When will Djokovic play next?
Djokovic is next scheduled for the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships held Feb. 21-26. Vaccination is not required. A spokesperson told Reuters players wouldn't be allowed to enter the United Arab Emirates unless they provided a negative PCR test. They would then need to follow all applicable testing protocols and processes outlined by the tennis organizations.
The Monte Carlo Masters, which Djokovic has won twice, is held in France in April. It would presumably have to follow the country's vaccination guidelines as well.
Wimbledon organizers have not finalized safety protocols ahead of its summer major. Unvaccinated individuals can currently enter England and have to isolate for 10 days upon arrival.
The U.S. Open closes the Grand Slam calendar in August. Foreign travelers have to be fully vaccinated in a ruling dating back to November. They must provide proof of it and there are few exceptions. Djokovic also has potential tournaments in the U.S. at Indian Wells and Miami in March.