French Open: Novak Djokovic gets nod to defend title
French Open organisers said on Wednesday that Novak Djokovic will be allowed to defend his title as the tournament prepares to stage what is expected to be the first grand slam without any Covid-19 related restrictions since the pandemic broke two years ago.
Russian tennis players, including top-ranked Daniil Medvedev, will also be admitted to play in the tournament but as neutral athletes.
France has lifted restrictions in almost all public spaces — except hospitals, nursing homes and public transports — on Monday, meaning the Roland Garros stadium should be operating at full capacity with Djokovic taking it to the red dirt courts.
“As things stand, nothing stands in the way of Djokovic taking part in the French Open,” tournament director Amelie Mauresmo told a news conference on Wednesday.
The 20-time grand slam winner was unable to defend his Australian Open title in January after being deported from the country in a furore after being initially admitted to the tournament despite not being vaccinated against coronavirus.
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. Djokovic has won the French Open twice and has a total of 20 major titles, one short of the record held by Rafael Nadal after the Spaniard won this year’s Australian Open.
The 34-year-old Djokovic is also out of this month’s ATP 1000 tournaments at Indian Wells and Miami, unable to enter the United States without a proof of vaccination.
While that is not required to enter France or any sporting event in the country, French tennis federation (FFT) president Gilles Moretton warned that things could change before the tournament starts on May 22.
“There’s still a virus circulating. If things were to happen again and the government would take new measures we would not be excluded from these measures,” he explained.
Moretton was optimistic that the Roland Garros stadium would be full after the 2020 and 2021 editions were hit by Covid-19. “We started selling tickets on March 8 and 500,000 of the 600,000 have already been sold,” Moretton told a news conference on Wednesday.