Novak Djokovic Eligible to Compete at Wimbledon as COVID-19 Vaccination Won't Be Required

Wimbledon organizers announced that although COVID-19 vaccinations are encouraged, they will not be required for tournament participation, and are not mandatory to enter the U.K.

Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic. Photo: Sarah Stier/Getty

Novak Djokovic will be eligible to compete at Wimbledon in June despite his COVID-19 vaccination status after tournament organizers announced Tuesday that unvaccinated players won't be exempt from participating.

"The requirement set out by the government to enter the U.K. does not include mandatory vaccination," Sally Bolton, All England Lawn Tennis Club chief executive, said during a news conference. "Therefore, while it is of course encouraged, it is not a condition of entry."

The decision clears the way for Djokovic to defend his Wimbledon title after defeating Italy's Matteo Berrettini in the men's singles final last year, earning his 20th Grand Slam title. Wimbledon is scheduled to kick off on June 27 and end on July 10.

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Novak Djokovic
Sarah Stier/Getty

The Serbian tennis star, 34, previously announced that he would withdraw from any tennis tournaments where the COVID vaccine is required before pulling out from two U.S. tournaments — the 2022 BNP Paribas Open and Miami Open.

Djokovic told the BBC in February that he had no problem missing the next two 2022 majors — the French Open and Wimbledon — if he remained unvaccinated.

"[A] price that I am willing to pay," Djokovic told the outlet. "I understand the consequences of my decision. I understand that not being vaccinated today, you know, I am unable to travel to most of the tournaments at the moment."

Djokovic added that, though he is not opposed to vaccines, having "the freedom to choose what you put into your body" is more important than winning any titles for the sport.

"I am trying to be in tune with my body as much as I possibly can," he said to BBC at the time, noting that he's very mindful of what he ingests. "Based on all the information that I got, I decided not to take the vaccine, as of today."

Djokovic is currently ranked number one in the world by the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) but briefly slipped to number two following his absence in the 2022 Australian Open in January.

The athlete received a COVID-19 vaccine medical exemption to play in the Australian Open but was later forced to leave the country after Australian Immigration Minister Alex Hawke canceled his visa.

Hawke said in a statement at the time that he was canceling Djokovic's visa "on health and good order grounds, on the basis that it was in the public interest to do so." He assured that the government is "firmly committed to protecting Australia's borders, particularly in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic."

Despite being eligible to compete in the U.K. Grand Slam this summer, Djokovic's participation is still up in the air after the tennis star criticized Wimbledon's recent ban on Russian and Belarusian players amid the ongoing war in Ukraine.

Speaking with reporters at the Serbia Open following the announcement last week, Djokovic said he "cannot support the decision of Wimbledon," as "a child of war."

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"I know how much emotional trauma it leaves. In Serbia, we all know what happened in 1999. In the Balkans, we have had many wars in recent history," he said, according to CNN.

"However, I cannot support the decision of Wimbledon, I think it is crazy," Djokovic added. "When politics interferes with sport, the result is not good. I will always condemn war, I will never support war being myself a child of war."

Tournament officials announced their decision in a statement April 20: "Given the profile of The Championships in the United Kingdom and around the world, it is our responsibility to play our part in the widespread efforts of Government, industry, sporting and creative institutions to limit Russia's global influence through the strongest means possible."

"In the circumstances of such unjustified and unprecedented military aggression, it would be unacceptable for the Russian regime to derive any benefits from the involvement of Russian or Belarusian players with The Championships," Wimbledon officials' statement continued. "It is therefore our intention, with deep regret, to decline entries from Russian and Belarusian players to The Championships 2022."

Tournament officials added, "If circumstances change materially between now and June, we will consider and respond accordingly."

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