Wimbledon champion Novak Djokovic is hoping for a change to American Covid-19 entry rules in time for him to challenge for a fourth US Open title later this summer.
Djokovic, who defeated Nick Kyrgios in four sets to lift the Wimbledon crown for a fourth consecutive time — and seven in all — on Sunday, has consistently refused Covid vaccination.
That stance cost the 35-year-old the opportunity to compete at the Australian Open earlier this year after a prolonged stand-off with that country’s authorities — but he hopes it could be a different story when the Flushing Meadows tournament begins in August.
“I’m not vaccinated and I’m not planning to get vaccinated,” said Djokovic. “So the only good news I can have is them removing the mandated green vaccine card or whatever you call it to enter the United States or exemption.
“I don’t know, I don’t think exemption is realistically possible. If that is a possibility, I don’t know what exemption would be about.
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“I don’t have much answers there. I think it’s just whether or not they remove this in time for me to get to USA.
“Whether or not I’m playing any tournament soon, I’ll definitely be resting for the next couple of weeks because it has been quite an exhausting and demanding period for me.
“Then I’ll wait hopefully for some good news from USA because I would really love to go there.”
Djokovic, who became only the fourth man in the Open Era to win four Wimbledon titles in a row, admitted his success against Kyrgios provided a sense of ‘relief’, particularly in the wake of his drawn-out deportation from Australia.
“Wimbledon historically has always come at such important stages of my life and my career,” he added. “It was in 2018 when I was starting the year with elbow surgery, trying to work my way back in the rankings, not playing well.
“It’s not a coincidence that this place has such relevance in my life and career. It’s a relief, as well, considering what I’ve been through this year — of course it adds more value and more significance and more emotions.
“I’ve said it many times, this tournament is extra special for me because it has been the first tournament I ever watched as a kid that got me to start playing tennis.
“The more you win, it’s logical the more confident, the more comfortable you feel next time you step out on the court. So the run keeps going and I feel very connected with this court and this tournament, without a doubt.”
Djokovic’s coach Goran Ivanisevic, who reached four Wimbledon finals during his own playing career — winning the tournament in 2001 — said he always remained confident the top seed would bounce back from his Australian Open disappointment.
“For some people, they don’t recover — they will never play tennis,” said Ivanisevic. “This was a big shock. It was a shock for me, and I was free — imagine for him.
“It’s really for me heroic, because it was not easy to digest and come back to play tennis. People like him you don’t doubt, he’s a great champion.
“He just needed to find the peace. Like I said, it was not easy to plan anything because one week he can play, next week he cannot play at that tournament.
“It was not easy, but this is the result. This trophy, this joy on the Centre Court, it’s so beautiful. This is paying off.”