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Djokovic will be allowed to defend French Open crown

Novak Djokovic

Bengaluru, March 17: Novak Djokovic will be allowed defend his French Open title even if he is not vaccinated against the coronavirus (COVID-19) as long as the virus situation in France remains stable, tournament organisers confirmed.

Russian tennis players, including top-ranked Daniil Medvedev, will also be admitted to play in the tournament, but as neutral athletes as a fall out of Russia's invasion in neighboring Ukraine.

Against this backdrop, French Open organisers said there is nothing at the moment preventing Djokovic from defending his title at the clay-court Grand Slam which begins on May 22.

Djokovic set to appear at Monte Carlo Masters in AprilDjokovic set to appear at Monte Carlo Masters in April

France this week lifted measures requiring the need to wear face masks in most settings and allowing people who are not vaccinated back into restaurants, sports arenas and other venues.

"At this stage there's nothing to stop him returning to the courts," French Open Director Amelie Mauresmo said at a press conference.

It is worth mentioning that Djokovic was deported from Australia in January after a legal battle over whether he should be allowed to enter the country, forcing him to miss the Australian Open.

'More important than any title' – Djokovic prepared to miss more grand slams over vaccination stance'More important than any title' – Djokovic prepared to miss more grand slams over vaccination stance

He told the BBC last month that he was willing to miss upcoming Grand Slam tournaments as well if they required him to get vaccinated.

French Tennis Federation President Gilles Moretton said that although Djokovic is now free to play, French authorities might be forced to introduce new restrictions if the COVID-19 situation deteriorates before the tournament starts.

"It isn't up to us," Moretton said. "Today there's a little virus that's going around. We're quite confident that the lights are green, but we're all cautious about what has happened over the last two years."

Asked whether Russian tennis players will be allowed to compete at the tournament, organisers said they plan to stick to decisions suspending Russia and ally Belarus but allowing their players to compete as neutral athletes.

"We're holding this line," said Amelie Oudea-Castera, the French Tennis Federation Director General.

WTA chief supports Russian players

Meanwhile, WTA chairman Steve Simon said Russian tennis players must not be penalised for their country's authoritarian leadership amid concerns they could be frozen out of top tournaments.

The ATP and WTA tours decided Russian and Belarusian players should not be allowed to represent those nations with stars such as Medvedev currently playing under a neutral flag.

Simon insisted Russian and Belarusian tennis players should be able to continue featuring on the tour, despite a number of other sports banning such athletes.

"I can tell you that we have never banned athletes from participating on our tour as the result of political positions their leadership may take," Simon was quoted as saying by BBC Sport.

Russian players in Wimbledon: All England club hold talks with UK governmentRussian players in Wimbledon: All England club hold talks with UK government

Meanwhile, Wimbledon organisers are having talks with the British government about whether Russian players should be allowed to compete at the grass-court tournament this year if they do not distance themselves from President Vladimir Putin.

"Absolutely nobody flying the flag for Russia should be allowed. Many of us would be willing and able to allow them to compete as non-aligned, non-flag-bearing entities. But I think it needs to go beyond that. We need some potential assurances that they aren't supporters of Vladimir Putin and we're considering what requirements we may need to try and get some assurances along those lines," British Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston told legislators in London.

(With inputs from Agencies)

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Story first published: Thursday, March 17, 2022, 9:53 [IST]
Other articles published on Mar 17, 2022