LOS ANGELES (AFP) – Top-ranked 20-time Grand Slam champion Novak Djokovic, prevented from playing the Australian Open because he was not vaccinated for COVID-19, is entered in next month’s Indian Wells ATP event.
Djokovic is a five-time champion at Indian Wells, where organisers announced entries on Wednesday and said proof of full vaccination will be required for spectator entry into the grounds for the March 7-20 tournament.
The Serbian star was set to try and win a fourth consecutive Australian Open title last month – what would have been his record 21st career major singles crown – but Australian border officials said he did not meet requirements for unvaccinated travellers to enter the nation.
Djokovic’s visa was eventually cancelled and after a legal appeal failed he departed without playing.
Spain’s Rafael Nadal, who is also on the Indian Wells entry list, won the Australian Open to set the record with his 21st career Slam singles crown.
Organisers at Indian Wells noted in a statement that vaccinations will be required for the event, but also said player protocols for Djokovic and other men’s players will be decided by the ATP in line with United States (US) restrictions.
“With health and safety as the tournament’s top priority, the BNP Paribas Open will require valid proof of full vaccination to enter the Indian Wells Tennis Garden for the tournament,” it said.
“The guidelines for the players are governed by the protocols established by their respective governing bodies, the WTA and ATP, as well as any restrictions established by the United States of America in regard to the vaccination status of international travellers entering the country.”
Djokovic is due to return to the tour at the Dubai ATP event from February 21.
Joining three-time Indian Wells winner Nadal, who missed the 2021 event due to a foot injury, and Djokovic in the field are reigning US Open champion and Australian Open runner-up Daniil Medvedev, ATP Finals winner Alexander Zverev and 2021 French Open runner-up Stefanos Tsitsipas as well as defending champion Cameron Norrie of Britain.
Australian Open champion Ashleigh Barty, the world number one from Australia, tops the women’s field. The reigning Wimbledon champion did not play at Indian Wells in 2021, when Spain’s Paula Badosa won the title she will try to defend.
World number two Aryna Sabalenka, 2021 French Open champion and world number three Barbora Krejcikova and fourth-ranked Karolina Pliskova are also in the field, as are 2012 and 2016 winner Victoria Azarenka and 2015 champion Simona Halep.
Teen stars Leylah Fernandez of Canada and Emma Raducanu of Britain, the 19-year-olds who met in last year’s US Open final won by Raducanu, and 17-year-old American Coco Gauff will also be in the field.