Tennis champion Novak Djokovic is set to miss his second U.S. tennis tournament this year, after he was denied entry into the country for being unvaccinated against COVID-19.
The 35-year-old Djokovic will miss the Miami Open, which begins March 22, tournament director James Blake confirmed to the Tennis Channel on Friday. Djokovic has won the Miami Open six times — three of those consecutively. The latest win came in 2016.
Blake said tournament organizers spoke with federal officials and tried their best to get an exception to the U.S. policy, which restricts unvaccinated international travelers from entering the U.S.
“Obviously, we’re one of the premier tournaments in the world, we’d like to have the best players that can play,” Blake told the Tennis Channel. “We did all that we could. We tried to talk to the government, but that’s out of our hands.”
Some, like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, are calling on President Biden to remove the vaccination requirement and allow the Serbian athlete to compete in U.S. tournaments again.
In a press conference earlier this month, DeSantis joked that he would run a boat from the Bahamas to Miami to bring Djokovic to the tournament.
“He poses zero risk to the United States, zero risk to the state of Florida and zero risk to Miami,” the governor said at the time.
A spokesman from the U.S. Tennis Association told the Associated Press Saturday that they are “very hopeful” Djokovic will be able to play in the U.S. Open, which begins on Aug. 28.
“Policies concerning access to the United States are determined by the White House. We are very hopeful that the policy preventing Novak Djokovic from entering the United States will be rescinded, or lapse, in the near future,” Chris Widmaier said. “No COVID-19 restrictions are in place at the U.S. Open for any player, fan or other attendee. Novak, one of our sport’s great champions, would be welcome to compete at the 2023 U.S. Open.”
Djokovic is currently tied with Rafael Nadal for the most career Grand Slam titles of all time, with 22. In February, he broke the record for the most time spent by a professional tennis player in the No. 1 spot of the ATP rankings after winning the men’s singles title at the Australian Open in January — a tournament he was turned away from in 2022 for being unvaccinated.