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Wimbledon: Djokovic maintains COVID-19 vaccination stance, accepts he will miss US Open

By Patric Ridge

London, June 25: Novak Djokovic has accepted it is unlikely he will play at the US Open, as the Wimbledon top seed insisted he has not changed his mind on the COVID-19 vaccination.

Djokovic was unable to compete at the Australian Open earlier in 2022 after he was deported – following a drawn-out legal case with Australia's federal government – for not being vaccinated against coronavirus.

The Serbian has spoken out against mandatory vaccinations and when asked on Saturday by reporters at Wimbledon if he had closed his mind to the idea of being vaccinated before the US Open begins, he said "yes".

That means, as it stands, Djokovic will be unable to enter the United States due to being unvaccinated.

However, while frustrated that he will likely miss out on another grand slam this year, the 35-year-old suggested he is now even more motivated to go on and win Wimbledon for a seventh time, which would take him level with Pete Sampras and behind only Roger Federer, who has eight All England Club titles to his name.

Djokovic told reporters: "As of today I'm not allowed to enter the States under these circumstances. That is an extra motivation to do well here.

"Hopefully I can have a very good tournament as I have done in the last three editions. Then I'll have to wait and see.

"I'd love to go to the States but as of today that's not possible. There's not much I can do any more. It's up to the U.S. government on whether they allow unvaccinated people to go into the country."

Djokovic was at the centre of the controversy ahead of the season's first major, but the third grand slam of 2022 has been contentious for other reasons.

The All England Club made the decision to ban all Russian and Belarusian players, including men's world number one Daniil Medvedev, from competing, due to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. The call received criticism and, as a result, Wimbledon has been stripped of any ranking points by the WTA and ATP.

However, Djokovic is no longer as concerned about those points as he once was, as he instead looks to move back to within one major title of Rafael Nadal, whose tally stands at 22.

"I don't want to say ranking points are not important for me, of course they are, but they are not as important as they were for me," he said.

"Now I'm not really chasing the ranking as much as I have. I was breaking the record for longest weeks at number one and after that it wasn't as important for me in terms of priority.

"Of course, I understand that 90 per cent of players will be more affected by the points. Of course this year I did not have the chance to defend 4,000 points in Australia but my priorities now are different so I’m not as affected."

Djokovic, though, does feel it is harsh that Russian and Belarusian athletes are unable to play at SW19.

He said: "I just don't see how they have contributed to anything that has happened. I don't feel it’s fair.

"I feel like they deserve to win, compete, they are professional athletes. None of them have supported any war or anything like that.

"I understand both sides. It's hard to say what is right and wrong. Putting myself in a position where someone would ban me from playing because of circumstances that I have not contributed – I do not think that is fair."

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Story first published: Saturday, June 25, 2022, 23:20 [IST]
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