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Novak Djokovic set for fresh ban over Covid vaccine stance

The former world No 1 is set to face more hurdles as he could miss five major events in North America in 2023.

Serbia's Novak Djokovic walks on to center court for his round of 32 match against France's Constant Lestienne at the Adelaide International Tennis tournament in Adelaide, Australia, Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2023. (AP Photo/Kelly Barnes)© AP/PA Images

Kevin PalmerSunday World

Novak Djokovic may have hoped he left his Covid-19 vaccine woes behind him in 2022 – but the tennis champion looks set to miss a host of high-profile events this year after an announcement from the US government.

Djokovic was absent from the four ATP 1000 events in North America last year and also missed the US Open, as all foreign travellers are required to be vaccinated against Covid-19.

As Djokovic was very publicly refused to accept a Covid vaccine, he is now set to face more hurdles as he could miss five major events in North America in 2023.

There was an expectation that the rules would be relaxed in America in the coming months, but the recent surge in Covid cases around the world has seen the US authorities extend their vaccine requirement until at least April 10.

That ensures the unvaccinated Djokovic will be ruled out of both the Indian Wells and Miami Masters events in March, but he problems are unlikely to end there.

Unless Covid rates fall around the world, US authorities are expected to continue their vaccine requirement for foreign visitors.

And with China ending its Covid zero policy and concerns over a fresh wave of the virus sweeping around the world, Djokovic’s hopes of playing in the Toronto and Cincinnati ATP 1000 events in August must be under threat.

"I don't think there's anything official yet, so when it is we can speak about it," Djokovic told reporters on Thursday when asked about the US restrictions.

When told the rules have been certified by the US Transportation Security Administration, Djokovic replied: "I mean, if it is official then it is – what can I do? Nothing.

"You know my position, so it is what it is. I'm hoping [to play], but if I can't go, I can't go."

Djokovic is currently in Australia preparing for the first Grand Slam of 2023, a year after he was deported from the country due to his vaccine status.

“You can’t forget those events,” he said, reflecting on a deportation story that created headlines around the world last January.

“It’s one of these things that sticks with you, it stays with you for I guess the rest of your life. It was something that I’ve never experienced before, and hopefully never again.

“But it is a valuable life experience for me. I have to move on. Coming back to Australia speaks how I feel about this country, how I feel about playing here."

Djokovic has received a warm reception from Australian tennis fans in his first few days back in the country, but a recent survey suggested only 30 per-cent of the public believed the unvaccinated Serbian should be allowed to play at the Australian Open.

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