Tennis officials have opened the door for Novak Djokovic to defend his title at Wimbledon after deciding athletes don’t need to be vaccinated in order to play.
The 34-year old’s stance on the Covid-19 vaccine has put a pause on his tennis career and saw him deported from Australia in January 2022 under strict Covid-19 restrictions, forfeiting his spot in the Australian Open.
The World No.1 defeated Italian Matteo Berrettini in his sixth Wimbledon win in 2022 and has only competed in three tournaments this year so far.
Chief Executive Officer at the All England Lawn Tennis Club Sally Bolton announced the decision at Wimbledon’s spring briefing.
“As you will be aware, the requirements set out by the government to enter the UK do not include mandatory vaccination and, therefore, while of course it is encouraged, it will not be a conditional entry to compete at the Championships this year,” she said.
“We are planning to return to a normal Championships this year. And so we don’t intend to implement any of the Covid-19 measures that we saw last year in any substantial fashion. But we are, of course, keeping it on our radar in case we need to take further action when we continue to engage with DCMS, public health officials and with other sports.
“But this means that players will be able to return to their own choice of accommodation. We will see full capacity crowds for the whole event. And we’re absolutely thrilled to welcome back the wider tennis family to Wimbledon this year.”
The decision has left fans divided.
— dovie14 (@dovie141) April 26, 2022
Djokovic is allowed to play at Wimbledon this year! Absolutely right!
Athletes shouldn’t be forced into vaccination
— Sophie Corcoran (@sophielouisecc) April 26, 2022
So what do we think? Djokovic is now allowed to return to Wimbledon without being vaccinated – so why do the rest have to prove vaccines to go on holiday? I’m fully vaccinated btw but I find this WRONG. For the few again!
— Petra #TeamBoris (@Petra13941582) April 26, 2022
— Kannan (@kannandelhi) April 26, 2022
The move comes after Djokovic took the opportunity at the Serbia Open in Belgrade to slam Wimbledon officials for their decision to ban Russian players over the “unjustified” invasion of Ukraine.
“I will always condemn war, I will never support war being myself a child of war… However, I cannot support the decision of Wimbledon, I think it is crazy,” he said
“The players, the tennis players, the athletes have nothing to do with it (war). When politics interferes with sport, the result is not good.”