Novak Djokovic statement made by Miami Open chief after ‘visa long shot’

Novak Djokovic reacts to his recent media coverage

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Miami Open Tournament Director James Blake has admitted Novak Djokovic took a “long shot” at competing in America this month. Djokovic, 34, became embroiled in an explosive visa saga in January after being granted a medical exemption to compete in the Australian Open.

The decision sparked outcry given Djokovic had not complied with the mandate to be vaccinated against Covid-19, and his visa was duly revoked upon his arrival in Australia.

That decision was overturned following a legal appeal, only for the country’s immigration minister, Alex Hawke, to cancel it a second time and the Serbian was eventually deported out of the country just a day before the Grand Slam tournament began.

To compound matters for the then world no 1, he had to watch as Rafael Nadal triumphed in the final, meaning he beat Djokovic and rival Roger Federer to an unprecedented 21st Grand Slam title.

Despite the controversy, Djokovic then raised eyebrows when he confirmed he was entering two events in America this month, the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells and the Miami Open.

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This was despite the US already issuing strict vaccination laws for those wishing to enter the country, regulations which seemingly ruled the 20-time Slam champion out of competing.

Sure enough, on Wednesday, Djokovic announced he would not be playing in either event after the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) confirmed “the regulations won’t be changing.”

And now Blake has conceded that organisers were always prepared that the Miami tournament, which gets underway on March 21, might go ahead without one of its star attractions.

“We understood from the beginning that Novak’s participation at the Miami Open was determinant on his early entry into the United States, which we knew would be a long shot,” he was quoted as saying by Tennis365.

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“We have an incredibly deep and talented player field and look forward to hosting a great event.”

Earlier this year, Djokovic did hint he would be prepared to take the vaccine for the benefit of his own career, despite previously arguing that all players on the tour should be free to make the choice.

His participation in the next Grand Slam event, the French Open in May, doesn’t appear to be under threat though after France opted to suspend its rules on athletes needing Covid passports to compete in sporting events.

After his non-participation in Australia, Djokovic has now lost his long-standing status on top of the ATP rankings after being overtaken by Daniil Medvedev.

And the Russian will now eye the position to cement his spot at Indian Wells, with organisers taking to Twitter to state: “Novak Djokovic has withdrawn from the BNP Paribas Open.

“As the next player in line to be seeded, Grigor Dimitrov will move into Djokovic’s space in the draw, and a Lucky Loser from qualifying will move into Dimitrov’s space in the draw once qualifying is complete.” 

Qualifying matches for the event began on Tuesday.

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