Novak Djokovic will be allowed to defend Wimbledon title as Covid restrictions lifted

All England Club officials confirmed players will not be required to be vaccinated against Covid-19 to compete

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Novak Djokovic will be allowed to defend his Wimbledon title this summer after All England Club officials confirmed players will not be required to be vaccinated against Covid-19 to compete.

The world No 1 won his sixth Wimbledon crown last year, defeating Italy's Matteo Berrettini in the final, to take his Grand Slam tally to 20.

He was denied the chance to add to that total at January's Australian Open after a lengthy legal battle ended with the Serb's deportation before the tournament over his vaccine status. Djokovic has said he has twice tested positive for the coronavirus.

Djokovic, 34, has played only three tournaments in 2022 because of entry restrictions imposed by various countries, missing out on high-level tournaments in the United States and other countries as a consequence.

With most nations relaxing their rules around the virus, though, Djokovic should be free to play a full schedule through the clay and grass-court stretches, although he is currently still unable to enter the USA.

Speaking at Wimbledon’s spring briefing, chief executive Sally Bolton said: “As you will be aware, the requirements set out by 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.”

Last year’s Covid-related restrictions, which included reduced crowds for most of the tournament and strict conditions imposed on the players, will all be lifted.

“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.

Djokovic's 20 Grand Slam titles

“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 [Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport], 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.”

After what happened in Australia, Djokovic said he would be willing to sit out other Grand Slam tournaments if getting vaccinated were a requirement to compete. The next major event is the French Open, which begins on May 22, and tournament director Amelie Mauresmo said last month there was nothing preventing Djokovic from defending his 2021 title in Paris.

The Italian Open, a clay-court tune-up for Roland Garros, also has said Djokovic can play there next month.

The two-week Wimbledon Championships begins June 27.

Updated: April 27, 2022, 6:06 AM
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