Novak Djokovic to be allowed to play in French Open after vaccine ban lifted

Novak Djokovic’s self-imposed exile from the tennis tour looks to be drawing to an end, judging by news that the French government will drop its requirement for vaccine passports on March 14.

This will open Djokovic’s path to play in the next grand-slam event – the French Open – which is due to start on May 22, as well as the Monte Carlo Masters on April 9.

Djokovic’s absence from several leading tournaments – including, in all probability, the upcoming “Sunshine Double” of Indian Wells and Miami – is the result of his stubborn determination not to take a Covid vaccine.

His vaccine scepticism led to his dramatic expulsion from Australia in January, and has since limited him to just one event this season. In Dubai last month, he won his first two rounds before losing to eventual runner-up Jiri Vesely in the quarter-finals.

As a result of that defeat, Djokovic lost his world No 1 ranking to Russia’s Daniil Medvedev on Monday. Oddly enough, Medvedev’s participation in events immediately become the focus of debate this week, with some arguing that Russians and Belarussians should be banned from the tour in retaliation for Vladimir Putin’s warmongering. At the moment, though, these players are allowed to compete under a neutral flag.

Unless the USA should relax its travel restrictions in the next few days, Monte Carlo – which happens to be one of Djokovic’s main homes – is set to be his next appointment. The traditional starting point for the clay-court season, Monte Carlo is swiftly followed by Barcelona, Madrid and Rome, before the sequence concludes with the French Open.

Although Spain and Italy still require vaccine passports, Djokovic will surely be hoping that they emulate France – and the United Kingdom – by lowering their Covid safeguards in the coming weeks. His status as the only unvaccinated player in the world’s top 100 is extremely unlikely to affect his participation at Wimbledon.

Meanwhile, it was reported on Tuesday that Djokovic is no longer working with his long-time mentor, Marian Vajda. Although the 2001 Wimbledon champion Goran Ivanisevic is listed Djokovic’s day-to-day coach, Vajda has been an important sounding board since he began competing seriously for majors.

Vajda – who is 57, and wants to spend more time with his family – is understood to have stepped back at the end of last season, so his departure does not seem connected with the anti-vaxx debate that has developed around Djokovic.

Also on Tuesday, it emerged that Peugeot have also ceased to sponsor Djokovic. Again, though, this is not necessarily a comment on his approach to Covid. Peugeot are also cutting back on their involvement in the French Open.

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