Novak Djokovic has formally withdrawn from the draw of the Indian Wells tournament, organizers have said, indicating the world number one’s application for a COVID-19 vaccine exemption to enter the United States could fail.
The Serbian, who is one of the most high-profile athletes not to have been vaccinated against the virus, applied to the US government last month for special permission to play in ATP Masters events in Indian Wells and Miami, reports RTE.
“World No. 1 Novak Djokovic has withdrawn from the 2023 BNP Paribas Open. With his withdrawal, Nikoloz Basilashvili moves into the field,” organisers said in a statement late on Sunday, reports RTE.
The United States currently bans non-vaccinated foreigners from entering the country, a policy that is expected to be lifted on May 11 when the government ends its COVID-19 emergency declarations.
Djokovic has not played in back-to-back ATP Masters events in Indian Wells and Miami, the two biggest tournaments on the ATP calendar and known as the ‘Sunshine Double’, since 2019, reports RTE.
None of Djokovic’s team was immediately available to comment on the withdrawal.
On Friday, Florida senators Rick Scott and Marco Rubio wrote to US President Joe Biden urging him to accept the waiver request.
Indian Wells tournament director Tommy Haas, the United States Tennis Association and the US Open were among those hoping the 22-time Grand Slam champion could enter.
Djokovic, who missed the Australian Open last year due to his vaccination status and was not allowed to enter the United States for last year’s US Open, said he would rather miss the Grand Slam than have a vaccine shot, reports RTE.
He won a record 22 major championships at the Australian Open in January.
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