The rules barred Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic from taking part in some US tournaments because he is not vaccinated against COVID-19, but from May 12 he could freely enter and play in major American tournaments like the US Open. Image Credit: AFP

Washington: Novak Djokovic will be free to play in this year’s US Open after the United States government confirmed it is lifting  its COVID-19 vaccination requirements for international travellers on May 11.

Djokovic, one of the highest profile athletes to remain unvaccinated, has not been able to play in the United States since the vaccine mandate came into effect in November 2021.

Glaring absentee

The 35-year-old world No 1 last played the US Open in 2021, when his bid to complete a calendar year Grand Slam ended in defeat in the final to Russia’s Daniil Medvedev.

Since then Djokovic has been a glaring absentee from US tennis tournaments due to the travel mandate.


The 22-time Grand Slam singles winner applied unsuccessfully for a special exemption to enter the United States to play this year’s Masters events at Indian Wells and Miami.

US Open organisers, as well as the US Tennis Association, both called for Djokovic to be granted an exemption.

US tennis great John McEnroe was one of several who questioned the decision to continue to bar Djokovic from the United States, noting that the Serb played the US Open in 2021 when the pandemic was still raging.

Deported from Australia

“He played (the US Open) in 2021 and then wasn’t allowed to play in 2022, someone explain that to me,” McEnroe said earlier this year. “And now he’s still not permitted to play? It’s absurd.”

Djokovic was also infamously deported from Australia last year due to his vaccine status, missing the Australian Open. He returned to Melbourne this year and won the event.

However, on Monday, the White House confirmed that its vaccination requirement for travellers entering the United States would be lifted on May 11.

Covid deaths decline

More than a million people died from Covid-19 in the United States.

However, the White House noted that the pandemic had been all but stopped.

“Since January 2021, Covid-19 deaths have declined by 95 percent and hospitalisations are down nearly 91 per cent. Globally, Covid-19 deaths are at their lowest levels since the start of the pandemic,” the White House said in a statement.