Organisers Wednesday announced that Novak Djokovic would be permitted to participate in the French Open, even though he has not been vaccinated against COVID-19.
Russian tennis players including Daniil Medvedev who is the top-ranked player, will also be permitted to compete in the tournament as neutral athletes due to the Ukraine war.
Organisers stated that Djokovic can defend his clay-court Grand Slam title. France this week lifted measures requiring the need to wear face masks in most settings and allowing people who aren’t vaccinated back into restaurants, sports arenas and other venues.
“At this stage there is nothing to stop him returning to the courts,” French Open director Amelie Mauresmo said at a news conference.
Djokovic, who was in Australia for a legal dispute over his entry into the country, was removed from Australia in January. He had to miss the Australian Open. According to Djokovic, he is willing to skip the next Grand Slam tournaments if required to have his vaccines.
Djokovic has won the French Open twice and has a total of 20 major titles, one short of the record held by Rafael Nadal after the Spaniard won this year’s Australian Open.
Gilles Moretton of French Tennis Federation stated that Djokovic can play now, but French authorities could impose additional restrictions on Djokovic if the virus situation gets worse before the tournament begins May 22.
“It is not up to us,” Moretton said. “Today there is a little virus that is going around. We are quite confident that the lights are green, but we are all cautious about what has happened over the last two years.”
When asked whether Russian tennis players were allowed to compete in the tournament given the conflict in Ukraine, organizers stated that while they would suspend Russia and its ally Belarus, but allow their athletes to be neutral.
The sport’s seven organizations around the globe have condemned war, canceled events from Russia and Belarus, kicked these two countries out of Billie Jean King Cup or Davis Cup team competitions, and announced on March 1 players from the above mentioned nations will be allowed into WTA/ATP Grand Slam tournaments. However they won’t allow them to play under either the flag or name of Russia or Belarus.
“We are holding this line,” said Amelie Oudea-Castera, the French tennis federation director general.
Russian and Belarusian athletes have been banned from participating in competitions in track and fields, as well as figure and skating and soccer.
Wimbledon organizers are having conversations with the British government about whether Russian players should be allowed to compete at the grass-court tournament this year if they don’t distance themselves from President Vladimir Putin.
Oudea-Castera said French organizers don’t plan to start a detailed and individualized analysis of players’ individual situations, which “can be extraordinarily dependent on the family situations experienced by each of them.”
Russia invaded Ukraine in February 24th, the same day Medvedev received assurance of rising to the top of ATP’s rankings while playing at the Mexico Open.
“Watching the news from home, waking up here in Mexico, was not easy,” Medvedev said then. “By being a tennis player, I want to promote peace all over the world. We play in so many different countries; I’ve been in so many countries as a junior and as a pro. It’s just not easy to hear all this news. … I’m all for peace.”