World’s top male tennis player had asked for special permission to enter given US ban on unvaccinated foreigners.
Novak Djokovic has formally withdrawn from the draw for the Indian Wells tournament, according to organisers, in an indication that the world number one’s application for a COVID-19 vaccine waiver to enter the United States might have failed.
The Serbian, one of the most high-profile athletes unvaccinated against the virus, applied to the US government last month for special permission to play in ATP Masters events at Indian Wells and Miami.
“World No. 1 Novak Djokovic has withdrawn from the 2023 BNP Paribas Open. With his withdrawal, Nikoloz Basilashvili moves into the field,” organisers said in a statement late on Sunday.
The US currently bars unvaccinated foreigners from entry into the country, a policy that is expected to be lifted when the government ends its COVID-19 emergency declarations on May 11.
Djokovic has not competed at the back-to-back ATP Masters events in Indian Wells and Miami, two of the biggest tournaments on the ATP calendar and known as the “Sunshine Double”, since 2019.
No one from Djokovic’s team was immediately available to comment on the withdrawal.
Last Friday, Florida Senators Rick Scott and Marco Rubio wrote a letter to US President Joe Biden urging him to grant the waiver request.
Indian Wells tournament director Tommy Haas, the US Tennis Association and the US Open were among those also hoping the 22-time Grand Slam champion would be allowed to enter.
He would have been a strong favourite to win his sixth Indian Wells title when the tournament kicks off in the Southern California desert on Wednesday.
Djokovic, who was deported from last year’s Australian Open because he was unvaccinated and was not allowed into the US for the 2022 edition of the US Open, has said he would rather skip Grand Slams than have a COVID-19 shot.