London: Wimbledon champion Novak Djokovic is hoping US authorities change entry rules in time to allow him to compete at the US Open, even though he refuses to be vaccinated against coronavirus.
The Serbian top seed beat Nick Kyrgios in four sets on Sunday to win his seventh title at the All England Club and 21st Grand Slam crown overall — leaving him just one behind Rafael Nadal.
Now he is targeting a fourth US Open crown after losing to Daniil Medvedev in the final last year.
But as things stand, his unvaccinated status means he will not be allowed into the United States to play in the tournament, which starts next month.
Realistically not possible
“I’m not vaccinated and I’m not planning to get vaccinated so the only good news I can have is them removing the mandated green vaccine card or whatever you call it to enter United States or exemption,” said the 35-year-old.
“I don’t think exemption is realistically possible… I think it’s just whether or not they remove this in time for me to get to the USA.”
The Serb was deported from Australia over his vaccination status in January, preventing him from defending his Australian Open title.
Difficult start to the year
Djokovic admitted it had been a difficult start to the year and it had taken him months to recover.
“It has affected me definitely in the first several months of the year,” he said. “I was not feeling great generally. I mean, mentally, emotionally, I was not at a good place.
“I wanted to play, but at the same time when I went out on the court in Dubai, the first tournament of the year, I just felt so much pressure and emotions happening.
“I wasn’t feeling myself on the court. I realised at that point that it’s going to take some time, that I have to be patient, and sooner or later I will get myself in the state, optimal state, where I would like to be.”
Djokovic’s coach, former Wimbledon champion Goran Ivanisevic, said it had been a “tough year” for the player.
But he said he never doubted Djokovic would recover, describing him as “heroic”.
“People like him you don’t doubt,” he said. “He’s a great champion. They say maybe took him a long time, but it didn’t take him a long time.
“It took him the exact time that he needed to recover and to digest all the things that happened to him.”
Djokovic, whose Wimbledon triumph was his fourth in succession at the All England Club, said he was now taking a much-needed holiday.
“I am on vacation,” he said. “Whether or not I’m playing any tournament soon, I’ll definitely be resting for the next couple of weeks because it has been quite an exhausting and demanding period for me the last few months.
“A lot of tennis, which I was very happy about. I got what I wanted here. Then I’ll wait, hopefully, for some good news from the USA because I would really love to go there.”
Focus on Slams
The former world No 1 said he did not feel under pressure to play a certain schedule.
“I achieved that historic No 1, weeks for No 1, that I worked for all my life. Now that that’s done and dusted, I prioritise Slams and big tournaments really and where I want to play, where I feel good.”
Djokovic also said he felt lifted by the Wimbledon crowd on Sunday — he has often faced an uphill battle to win fans over when he has been playing Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal.
“I did definitely feel support and feel love from the crowd today, so I’m very grateful for that,” he said.
“Obviously, it’s not a secret that any player would like to have people backing him during the match because at the end of the day this could make a quite big difference with how you feel mentally.”