Novak Djokovic. [Source: Reuters Sports]
Novak Djokovic was named on the entry list for the upcoming Indian Wells tennis tournament on Wednesday, but he is expected to be barred from travelling to the United States to compete due to his ongoing refusal to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
The Serbian world number one is a five-time champion at the ATP 1000 event but has not played a match on the hard courts in the Southern California desert since 2019.
The United States has in place a vaccine requirement for foreign air travellers that is not expected to be lifted before main draw action kicks off on March 9.
U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration last month said it would lift COVID-19 emergency declarations on May 11, nearly three years after the United States imposed sweeping pandemic measures to curb the spread of the illness.
Indian Wells tournament director Tommy Haas recently said that it would be a “disgrace” if Djokovic was not allowed to compete at Indian Wells and other tournaments in the United States this year.
Haas said Indian Wells organisers would do everything to help Djokovic’s chances of playing.
Djokovic, one of the most high-profile unvaccinated athletes in the world, missed last year’s Australian Open and was deported from the country due to his vaccine status.
He regained entry into the tournament this year and won it to claim a record-tying 22nd Grand Slam title and the world number one ranking.
The 35-year-old has previously stated he would miss Grand Slams rather than have a COVID vaccine.
Even if Djokovic is unable to compete at Indian Wells there will still be plenty of talent on show.
Spanish great Rafael Nadal, teenage world number two Carlos Alcaraz and defending champion Taylor Fritz were among those named on Wednesday’s entry list.
One the women’s side, world number one and defending champion Iga Swiatek, Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka and rising Americans Jessica Pegula and Coco Gauff will compete for the prestigious title.