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LONDON, April 26, (AP): Novak Djokovic will be allowed to defend his title at Wimbledon, despite not being vaccinated against COVID-19, because the shots are not required to enter Britain, All England Club chief executive Sally Bolton said Tuesday. Djokovic, a 34-year-old Serb who is ranked No. 1, missed the Australian Open in January after being deported from that country because he was not vaccinated against the illness caused by the coronavirus that has led to the deaths of millions during the pandemic that began in 2020. During the annual spring briefing ahead of Wimbledon, which starts on June 27, Bolton said that “whilst, of course, it is encouraged” that all players get vaccinated, “it will not be a condition of entry to compete” at the grass court Grand Slam tournament this year.
Djokovic, in addition to being unable to defend his championship at Melbourne Park after an 11-day legal saga over whether he could remain in Australia, had to sit out tournaments at Indian Wells and Miami because he couldn’t travel to the United States as a foreigner who is unvaccinated. The U.S. Tennis Association has said that it will follow whatever governmental rules are in place regarding COVID- 19 vaccination status when the U.S. Open is held starting in late August. Djokovic – who has said he got COVID-19 twice, once each in 2020 and 2021 – owns 20 Grand Slam singles titles, tied with Roger Federer for the second-most for a man.
They trail Rafael Nadal, who won his 21st at the Australian Open. Six of Djokovic’s trophies came at Wimbledon, including victories each of the past three times the tournament was held – in 2018, 2019 and 2021. It was not held in 2020 because of the pandemic. After what happened in Australia, Djokovic said he would be willing to sit out other Grand Slam tournaments if getting vaccinated were a requirement to compete. The next major event is the French Open, which begins on May 22, and tournament director Amelie Mauresmo said last month there was nothing preventing Djokovic from defending his 2021 title in Paris. The Italian Open, a clay-court tuneup for Roland Garros, also has said Djokovic can play there next month.