Novak Djokovic lashed out at US Open officials over their decision to allow unvaccinated American players to compete but not extend the same privilege to overseas players.
After beating second-round opponent Thanasi Kokkinakis in straight sets at Wimbledon, Djokovic told reporters it was a “shameful” move for the US Open.
Arguably the most prominent unvaccinated player on tour, Djokovic has already missed the Australian Open this year after being deported in the days leading up to the tournament.
The world number one claimed to have obtained a legitimate exemption from the vaccine, but it was not accepted upon arrival in Melbourne and he was detained by border officials.
He was released on a subsequent appeal, only for then-immigration minister Alex Hawke to cancel his visa on a discretionary basis.
Djokovic said missing the US Open, from which he was memorably disqualified in 2020 after hitting a linesman with the ball, would not be “the end of the world”.
Nevertheless, he was sharply critical of the decision, which was clearly not fair.
“I was texting Tennys Sandgren a few days ago. I wanted to thank him for the public support he gave me in this situation,” said Djokovic.
“What he said makes perfect sense – if unvaccinated players are not allowed to compete at the US Open, then it should apply to everyone.
“I don’t see the medical logic behind it that Tennys can play because he’s a US citizen and I can’t.”
Djokovic said either all unvaccinated players should be allowed to play or none.
Novak Djokovic defeated Thanasi Kokkinakis at Wimbledon
Kokkinakis had both the best and the worst view in the house as Djokovic produced a commanding performance to reach the third round with a 6-1 6-4 6-2 training session on Wednesday.
In his first appearance at the All England Club in five years, Kokkinakis felt Djokovic was untouchable at times and said he would be surprised if anyone prevented the Serb from claiming a fourth straight title and the seventh of his storied career.
“If someone beats him when he’s playing like that, it means I’m further than I thought. I hope not if he’s playing anyway,” Kokkinakis said.
“If it’s not his highest intensity, I’m going to cut even more next time. He came back unbelievable, he just did everything well.”
Chasing a 21st Grand Slam singles crown to draw level with one of his great rivals, Rafael Nadal, on the all-time list of men’s major titles, Djokovic produced an array of shots that left the crowd breathless at times.
Djokovic was in full control from beautiful drops, to sublime volleys and even one incredible backhand winner down the line.
“I have to say that I was quite pleased with how I leveled up in two days.
Djokovic dismissed one suggestion that he was playing with increased intensity out of some sort of revenge for being deported from Australia earlier in the year.
“I don’t hold any grudge against anyone who is actually from Australia,” he said.
“I didn’t have any extra intensity or desire to win this fight just because Thanasi is Australian.
“On the contrary, I have a really good relationship with Thanasi. I felt there was a lot of respect today.”
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