World No. 1 Novak Djokovic has been denied entry to the US to compete at the Indian Wells tournament after failing to seal special permission to enter the country.
The Serbian, who is one of the most high-profile athletes unvaccinated against the virus, applied to the US government last month for a waiver to play at ATP Masters events at Indian Wells and Miami.
The 22-time Grand Slam winner wanted to play the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, which starts on Monday, and the Miami Open.
Djokovic’s absence from a popular tournament has sparked outrage with many describing the decision to keep out one of the best tennis players of all time ‘unacceptable’ and others left puzzled over the policy.
Comedian and talk-show host Bill Maher did not hold back in his criticism of his nation’s COVID rules.
‘He’s unvaccinated but he’s had COVID twice, natural immunity. Again something we always used to understand was like better than the actual vaccine. Somehow that got to be reversed,’ he said in a panel discussion.
‘The head of the Miami tournament, I read a quote and he’s trying to get Djokovic in. He said: “There doesn’t appear to be any imminent danger.”
‘Imminent danger? Of a man playing tennis? Of a man who’s had it twice? In a sport where you’re alone, in the middle of a stadium where you’re outside in a country where everyone’s already had it.
Djokovic’s vaccination status led to him missing both the Australian Open with him being deported from the country and US Open last year.
With vaccination against Covid-19 no longer required to enter Australia, he then successfully challenged a three-year ban on applying for a visa and was able to compete in January’s Australian Open, going on to beat Stefanos Tsitsipas in the final.