April 9, 2024

Open Court

MORE TENNIS THAN YOU'LL EVER NEED

No Djokovic in Australia – what about Roland Garros?

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Novak Djokovic is the defending champion at Roland Garros (Photo : Corinne Dubreuil / FFT)

MELBOURNE, Australia – Because of a late-in-the-game Victorian state exemption in Victoria after he got COVID in mid-December, the unvaccinated Novak Djokovic was technically allowed to compete in the Australian Open.

Although not, as it turns out, to enter the country because of that positive COVID test.

But while the world No. 1 lost that battle and was deported on Sunday, it may prove even more difficult for him to win the war.

The next major is Roland Garros in late May. Less than two weeks ago, French sports minister Roxanne Maracineanu said during Djokovic’s travails down under that he would be allowed to enter France and play Roland Garros

“He would not follow the same organisational arrangements as those who are vaccinated. But he will nonetheless be able to compete (at Roland Garros) because the protocols, the health bubble, allows it,” the minister told FranceInfo radio, via Reuters.

It turns out, that wasn’t quite true. Or at least no longer true.

Less than two weeks later, the French Parliament has tighted up restrictions – limited access to sporting venues and restaurants to vaccinated people. And it will apply to visiting athletes, with no exceptions.

All of which makes the next moves for Djokovic, who is now safely home in Serbia after a pretty rough go Down Under, fascinating.

ATP still efforting on clarity

The players were told Wednesday that the ATP had heard from the French Tennis Federation. And that the new legislation was likely to come into effect within a few days.

It would begin applying long before Roland Garros – as early as next week’s ATP Tour Challenger in Quimper, with no end date.

There are also Challengers in Cherbourg and Pau in the coming weeks. And in February there are ATP events in Montpellier and Marseille.

Per the ATP, “non-vaccinated players will be unable to compete in French tournaments.”

Also “players will have to be fully vaccinated to be eligible to complete, OR have a medical certificate that exempts them from vaccination due to medical reasons.”

(So yes, there’s a little bit of contradiction in the initial guidance to the players. This is not an unfamiliar refrain in 2022, already).

Garros

Is a case of COVID a “medical condition?”

All the ATP knows right now that it is “uncertain” whether players who’ve recently had COVID-19 can compete – unless they have had at least one dose of a two-dose vaccine.

As Tennis Australia did before the Australian Open, the ATP is seeking clarification from the French government on this.

Hopefully their clarification is … more clear.

How about Indian Wells and Miami?

(Indian Wells might be a tough ask for Djokovic in March)

As for the United States, that one might also be problematic. And two major events at Indian Wells and Miami are just six weeks away.

For the moment, per the new protocols passed and effective last Nov. 8, the requirements are thus:

“Noncitizens who are nonimmigrants” who are traveling by air will have to show both the negative COVID viral test and documentation that they are either fully vaccinated or are eligible for an exception to the vaccination requirement.”

There are no loopholes in there for recent cases of COVID.

The medical exemptions are mostly along the lines of having had a bad or allergic reaction to … the vaccine.

(It’s also notable that the Russian vaccine is not on the accepted list. So the players who had an issue with that and were unable to travel to Australia may well face the same issue trying to get into the U.S.)

Bottom line, Djokovic is going to have to make some hard decisions.

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