Wimbledon opens its doors for Djokovic

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Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic will be free to defend his Wimbledon title after the All England Club confirmed Covid vaccinations will not be needed to compete in this year’s Championships.

There are no plans for any coronavirus restrictions this time after two disrupted years of the London Grand Slam.

20-time Slam winner Djokovic, who has made clear he is not vaccinated against the virus, was barred from playing at the Australian Open back in January and booted out of the country by the Government.

Djokovic, 34, will also be able to compete at the French Open after organisers in Paris dropped all Covid restrictions.

The Serbian has won the Wimbledon men’s singles title six times, including last year when he defeated Italian Matteo Berretini in straight sets.

The 2020 Wimbledon Championships was cancelled amid the pandemic, while the 2021 edition took place in front of restricted crowds up until the semi-finals.

This year’s tournament will take place between June 27 and July 10.

Novak Djokovic will be able to defend his Wimbledon title after the All England Club announced there will be no Covid restrictions at this year’s Championships allies over ban on Russians and…

The relaxation of the rules also allows players competing to move more freely around London during the tournament.

Players and a three-person support team each all stayed at the same hotel last year and were not allowed to go anywhere other than the SW19 site for matches and practice.

Regular Covid testing was in place within the ‘bubble’ and they had to travel to and from the hotel in official transport.

The top-ranked British women’s player, Johanna Konta, was forced to withdraw and quarantine after a member of her team tested positive for Covid.

Djokovic, who had tested positive for Covid in mid-December, was initially granted an exemption from the mandatory vaccination rule to enter the Australian Open in Melbourne.

But he was detained by the Australian Border Force when he attempted to enter Australia on January 5. His visa was cancelled and he was taken to an immigration detention hotel to await a court hearing.

Five days later, Djokovic was released after the Federal Circuit and Family Court ruled against the Border Force ban.

However, Australian immigration minister Alex Hawke exercised special powers to cancel Djokovic’s visa for a second time, even though he’d started on-court preparations for his first match and was included in the draw.

Djokovic’s judicial review of the deportation decision was rejected and he was forced to leave the country.

But in an interview with the BBC, Djokovic said he was willing to forego the chance to win future Slams in order to stick to his principles.

However, the easing of the pandemic means Djokovic will be able to add to his 20 Slam titles at the French Open and then Wimbledon this summer.

Meanwhile, Wimbledon was left with ‘no viable alternative’ but to ban Russian and Belarusian players from this year’s Championship, chairman Ian Hewitt said at the All England Club’s spring briefing.

Expanding on last week’s announcement that Wimbledon and the preceding grass-court events would be the first individual tennis tournaments to bar players from the two countries, Hewitt stressed the role of the UK Government.

He said: ‘The UK Government has set out directive guidance for sporting bodies and events in the UK with specific aim of limiting Russia’s influence.

‘We have considered at length the options available. These are in effect two options: declining entries or allowing entries but only with specific declarations (against the invasion of Ukraine) from individual players.

‘We considered a wide variety of factors. After lengthy and careful consideration, we came to two firm conclusions.

‘First, even if we were to accept entries (from Russian and Belarusian players) with written declarations, we would risk their success or participation being used to benefit the propaganda machine of the Russian regime, which we could not accept.

‘Second, we have a duty to ensure no actions should put players or their families at risk. We understand and deeply regret the impact this will have on all the people affected.

‘We believe we have made the most responsible decision possible. We believe (given Government guidance) there is no viable alternative in this truly exceptional and tragic situation.’ – Daily Mail