Monday, May 23

Djokovic faces ban in France as he lands in Belgrade

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Novak Djokovic arrived Serbia his home country on Monday, to a hero’s welcome. But in France, he faces a possible ban from the French Open if he remains unvaccinated.

French Parliament on Sunday passed a covid-19 vaccine pass, which now compels every athlete to possess one.

If the rule remains in place until May, the Serbian tennis player will lose his chance at taking out his 21st Grand Slam win.

The vaccine pass law will require people to have a certificate to visit public places.

A member of the French Parliament said the new law that will exclude unvaccinated people from sports venues, restaurants and other public places will apply anyone who wants to play in the tournament.

The comments Monday from Christophe Castaner and a tweet from the sports minister late Sunday marked a reversal from prior plans to create a “bubble” around the tournament, scheduled for late May into June.

The French sports ministry said: “The rule is simple. The vaccine pass will be imposed, as soon as the law is promulgated, in establishments that were already subject to the health pass,”

“This will apply to everyone who is a spectator or a professional sportsperson. And this until further notice.”

The rule change, approved by parliament on Sunday, specifically stated the French Open will not be exempt from the new guidelines.

“Now, as far as Roland Garros is concerned – it’s in May. The situation may change between now and then and we hope that it will be more favourable. So we’ll see, but clearly there’s no exemption.”

Djokovic arrived in his native Serbia on Monday after being deported from Australia because he was not vaccinated against COVID-19, ending his hopes of defending his Australian Open title.

A plane carrying the No. 1-ranked player from his stopover in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, touched down in the Serbian capital, Belgrade, where he is expected to receive a hero’s welcome.

Djokovic had argued in an Australian court he should be allowed to stay and compete because a recent coronavirus infection meant he was exempt from strict vaccination rules.

But Australian authorities cited the public interest in revoking his visa, saying his presence could stir up anti-vaccine sentiments and that kicking him out was necessary to keep Australians safe.

The Grand Slam started Monday in Melbourne, where Djokovic has won nine titles.

He had hoped this year to win his 21st Grand Slam singles trophy there, breaking the record he shares with rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal for the most in the history of men’s tennis.

Federer is not playing while recovering from injury, but Nadal is competing.

Even as he flew home from Australia, doubts arose over whether Djokovic would be able to play in the French Open.

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