There is a slim chance the world’s No. 1 tennis player Novak Djokovic will be allowed to play in the Miami Open later this month, even if he does not get the COVID vaccine.
Djokovic is currently listed as the top seed but unlikely to play because the U.S. COVID travel laws do not allow unvaccinated non-U.S. citizens to enter the country. That rule is expected to be expire on May 11, the day the Biden Administration is scheduled to lift COVID Emergency Declarations, so the Miami Open petitioned for an exemption to allow Djokovic to play.
Djokovic is not vaccinated. The United States is among the countries that have required COVID vaccination without the option of providing a test as an alternative.
“The rules officially change May 11, so we have petitioned for an exemption based on the fact that there doesn’t seem to be any imminent danger with him playing,” said Miami Open tournament director James Blake. “They are setting it for May 11 and we’re on a timeline. We can’t have the Miami Open after May 11. It’s at the time it is and we’d love to have our greatest champion there.
“We’ve highlighted the fact that it would be good for the economy, for the Miami community, and for tennis fans all over the world who want to see the greatest player in our game play right now.”
Blake has not heard back. The tournament starts March 19 at Hard Rock Stadium and runs through April 2.
“It’s getting late in the game, so it’s not looking as likely, but we’ve done what we can to try to get an exemption,” Blake said. “We’ll see if it’s effective, but unfortunately, it’s out of our hands. He’s been invited. He’s on the list. We’d love for him to play. He’s won it six times before. We’d love for him to have the opportunity to go for seven. We’ve done what we can.”
Blake added that the tournament at Indian Wells, California, that precedes the Miami Open, also applied for an exemption. He expects to know within the next week whether Djokovic will be allowed to play there.
“If he’s allowed to play there, then we’ll be very prepared for him to be in Miami, as well,” Blake said. “If he’s not, the writing may be on the wall.”
Meanwhile, world No. 8 Rafael Nadal announced Wednesday that he is still rehabbing a hip flexor injury and will skip the upcoming tournaments at Indian Wells and Miami.
“We were expecting that,” Blake said. “I watched him hobble off after the Australian Open, and it didn’t look like a guy that was going to be ready to compete for titles again on hard courts in just a few months. I wish him the best to be back for the clay court season. We hope to see him back in Miami in 2024.”
Even if Djokovic can’t make it, the Miami Open has an impressive field that includes world No. 2 and defending champion Carlos Alcaraz, No. 3 Stefanos Tsitsipas, No. 4 Casper Ruud, No. 5 Taylor Fritz, and No. 6 Andrey Rublev.
On the women’s side, top-ranked Iga Swiatek will be back to defend her 2022 title. Other previous winners in the field include Sloane Stephens (2018) and Victoria Azarenka (2016, 2011, 2009).
Tickets are on sale at www.MiamiOpen.com and start at $18. Single-session tickets and full-tournament passes are available.