By SAMUEL PETREQUIN, AP sports journalist
Novak Djokovic will be allowed to play at Roland-Garros even if he is not vaccinated against COVID-19 as long as the coronavirus situation in France remains stable, the organizers announced on Wednesday.
Russian tennis players, including debut Daniil Medvedev, will also be admitted to the tournament, but as neutral athletes due to their country’s war in neighboring Ukraine.
Organizers say there is currently nothing stopping Djokovic from defending his Grand Slam title on clay. France this week lifted measures requiring the wearing of face masks in most settings and allowing unvaccinated people to return to restaurants, sports arenas and other places.
“At this stage, nothing prevents him from returning to the courts,” Roland-Garros director Amélie Mauresmo told a press conference.
Djokovic was kicked out of Australia in January after a legal battle over whether he should be allowed to enter the country, causing him to miss the Australian Open. He told the BBC last month he was also ready to miss future Grand Slams if they forced him to get vaccinated.
Djokovic has won the French Open twice and has a total of 20 major titles, one less than the record held by Rafael Nadal after the Spaniard won the Australian Open this year.
French Tennis Federation President Gilles Moretton has said that although Djokovic is now free to play, French authorities may be forced to introduce further restrictions if the virus situation deteriorates before the tournament begins on May 22. .
“It’s not up to us,” Moretton said. “Today there’s a little virus going around. We’re quite confident the lights are green, but we’re all cautious about what’s happened in the last two years.”
Asked whether Russian tennis players will be allowed to participate in the tournament in light of the war in Ukraine, organizers said they planned to stick to decisions suspending Russia and its ally Belarus, but allowing their players to compete as neutral athletes.
The seven groups that run sport around the world have condemned the war; canceled events in Russia and Belarus; expelled these two nations from the Billie Jean King Cup and Davis Cup team competitions; and announced on March 1 that players from these countries will be allowed to participate in WTA, ATP and Grand Slam tournaments, but not under the name or flag of Russia or Belarus.
“We hold this line,” said Amélie Oudéa-Castera, director general of the French Tennis Federation.
Other sports, including athletics, football and figure skating, have banned Russian and Belarusian athletes from competing.
Wimbledon organizers are in talks with the UK government over whether Russian players should be allowed into the grass-court tournament this year if they don’t distance themselves from President Vladimir Putin.
Oudea-Castera said French organizers did not plan to embark on a detailed and individualized analysis of the players’ individual situations, which “can be extraordinarily dependent on the family situations experienced by each of them”.
Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, the day Medvedev was guaranteed to top the ATP rankings for the first time as he competed in the Mexican Open.
“Watching the news from home, waking up here in Mexico, hasn’t been easy,” Medvedev said then. “Being a tennis player, I want to promote peace all over the world. We play in so many different countries; I’ve been to so many countries as a junior and as a pro. It’s not easy to hear all this news. … I am for peace.
More AP Tennis: https://apnews.com/hub/tennis and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.