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Top-ranked Novak Djokovic to miss Miami Open over vaccine status

 UPI News logo: MainLogo UPI News 3/18/2023 Simon Druker

March 18 (UPI) -- Top-ranked tennis player Novak Djokovic will not play in the Miami Open, which begins next week, the tournament's director confirmed Saturday.

Director James Blake told the Tennis Channel organizers were unable to secure an exemption for the Serbian star, who remains unvaccinated against COVID-19 and is not allowed to legally enter the United States.

"Obviously, we're one of the premier tournaments in the world, we'd like to have the best players that can play," Blake said in the interview. "We did all that we could. We tried to talk to the government, but that's out of our hands."

The 35-year-old has been outspoken in his opposition to taking the vaccine.

Earlier this month, he was forced to withdraw from the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, Calif. That tournament wraps up Sunday with the Miami Open starting March 22.

"Same result that he had in Indian Wells, where I know [fellow tournament director] Tommy Haas did as much as he could. We tried to get Novak Djokovic to be allowed to get an exemption, but that wasn't able to happen," Blake said.

"We'd love to have him, and he's our greatest champion. Unfortunately, that's way above my pay grade," he added.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis previously said he would "run a boat from the Bahamas" to bring Djokovic to Miami, where was a five-time tournament champion between 2011 and 2016.

Current travel rules will restrict Djokovic from entering the United States until mid-April.

The Association of Tennis Professionals Tour's No. 1 men's player in the world last played in the United States in 2021, losing to Daniil Medvedev in the U.S. Open final.

Djokovic hasn't played at Indian Wells and in the Miami Open in the same year since 2019.

The ATP Tour has only a smattering of tournaments scheduled for April.

The 2023 U.S. Open in Flushing, N.Y. takes place between Aug. 28 and Sept. 10.

The Transportation Security Administration in January extended the requirement for foreign travelers to provide proof of vaccination through April 10.


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