John McEnroe sitting upright at his kitchen table in California. He would like to say something about this. Does he think it is fair that Novak Djokovic should not be allowed to travel to the US and therefore should miss the US Open which starts on Monday? “number!” McEnroe, 63, in conversation with European tennis journalists, raises his voice. “It’s unfair. It’s Bullshit. It’s a joke – it’s humor.”
You don’t have to knock on the door of a seven-time Grand Slam winner to get politically correct answers, that is well known. But that’s high on McEnroe. He clearly sympathizes with Djokovic and is angry at the strict government rules in America. Because, for the record: it’s not the tournament organization that creates this obstacle, it’s the strict entry restrictions that prevent the 35-year-old Serb from participating.
Best fitness and health
Djokovic has not vaccinated himself against the coronavirus for initial reasons and is therefore not allowed to travel to the United States. For example, it may happen that there will be unvaccinated (American) spectators in the stands next week, while the healthy and distinguished champions will have to submit their yellow book beforehand.
“Look, if I had been Djokovic, I would have taken that shot and started playing,” McEnroe says. But he has strong convictions and you have to respect them. At this point in the pandemic, we’ve been going through for two and a half years now, there’s a lot of knowledge in the world. I cannot explain that he is not allowed to travel and play.”
Just ask virologist Bert Nesters from the University of Groningen. Are there medically valid reasons for the United States to refuse unvaccinated people at the gate? No, says Nesters. Not anymore at this point in the pandemic. This vaccine is primarily intended to reduce the chance that you will end up in the hospital. Vaccination coverage is low in some US states and many people still end up with IC. But this is the danger that Djokovic may face. He could get infected there, with many Dutch people now contracting coronavirus on holiday. But it poses no danger to the American people. US thinking seems outdated, or a matter of principle.”
Djokovic says he has contracted coronavirus twice. He doesn’t run a much greater risk of injury than, say, a player who hit three shots, which was boosted seven months ago. So, in theory, Serbs could get sicker. Nesters says that risk will be at his expense. But keeping the borders closed is unsustainable and ineffective. Australia and New Zealand also suspended it. Only China is still keeping things closed, but see how it goes there.”
Feelings about Djokovic have changed somewhat over the course of the year. When he traveled to Melbourne in January and attempted to enter Australia under a “medical exception”, he was widely criticized. Who would have thought he would break the rules? In addition, Djokovic did not have the correct paperwork, his story was shaken and he ended up in a “detention hotel”, before finally being expelled from the country after two court cases.
For example, the nine-time Australian Open champion could not participate. Rafael Nadal won his 21st major title there, later grabbed the 22nd-ranked Roland Garros and saw that Djokovic recently made it 22-21 at Wimbledon. In New York, the Spaniard has a chance to increase the margin to two again.
head in order
“The question everyone wants answered is how this will turn out,” McEnroe says. “This story makes it more complicated for Djokovic. He has the advantage of his age. He can play for a few more years and can easily reach 25 major tournaments. But after the events in Australia, it took him three or four months to get his head back on track. Now he has been training for weeks, Not quite sure if he can play the US Open after all.”
In fact, Djokovic is still on the so-called Entry List. If the US government relaxes the rules in the very short term, he can still participate. This chance is considered slim. But even if Djokovic wasn’t there, there would be a lot going on about him in New York.
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