Novak Djokovic will not win a sixth title at Indian Wells this year. In a short press release, Sunday March 5, the organizers of the tennis tournament which begins Wednesday in the Californian desert announced its withdrawal from the competition.
The United States currently prohibits entry into its territory to people who have not been vaccinated against Covid-19, as is the case of the Serb. The latter had asked for a special authorization, but it was refused. Georgian Nikoloz Basilashvili will take his place in the men’s draw.
The world number 1 had prepared for this eventuality, warning that he would withdraw from the Master 1000 if necessary “before the draw”. He had to come to terms with it. If the authorities have not publicly communicated their response to his request, the reason for this enforced absence is not much of a mystery.
In recent days, many voices have been heard to plead his case. “It would be a shame in my eyes if he was not allowed to come”, had notably declared Tommy Haas, the director of the Indian Wells tournament. The American Tennis Federation and the organizers of the US Open also supported the approach of the corecordman of the number of Grand Slams won (22, like Rafael Nadal). But without effect.
Djokovic therefore does not benefit from any preferential treatment from Washington, while the American Transport Security Agency (TSA) recently announced that the inadmissibility of persons not vaccinated against Covid- 19 would remain in effect until at least mid-April.
Unless the situation turns around, “Nole” should therefore also give up participating in another Masters 1000, that of Miami (Florida), scheduled from March 22 to April 2.
379 weeks at the top
The 35-year-old Serb’s vaccination status has already played tricks on him. He had been expelled from Australia before the 2022 edition of the Melbourne Open, after a legal and media soap opera. For having tried to circumvent the obligation then in force in the country, with an exemption deemed unjustified by the authorities, he had to spend several days in a detention center before having to leave the country.
The following months, Djokovic was not allowed to come to the United States to defend his chances at Indian Wells in the spring and the US Open in the fall. His last match played on American soil dates back to the Major, in 2021, when he was beaten in the final by the Russian Daniil Medvedev, which deprived him of a calendar Grand Slam.
After these setbacks, the Serb bounced back by winning the 2022 edition of Wimbledon, then signing a resounding return to the Australian Open in January: his 22e victory in a Grand Slam tournament, becoming the world number one again.
Novak Djokovic is currently having one of the best starts to the year of his career. At the end of February, he became the player – men and women alike – having spent the greatest number of cumulative weeks at the top of world tennis. “Nole” has now spent a total of 379 weeks at the top of the ATP rankings, the main international circuit for men, a position he first achieved in 2011.