Djokovic’s French Open title defence in doubt after Covid pass ruling

Novak Djokovic may not be allowed to defend his French Open title in May after the French government ruled that all athletes will have to be vaccinated in order to attend and compete in sporting events in France.

The French sports minister, Roxana Maracineanu, has announced that athletes would not be exempt from France’s Covid pass, which will soon come into effect for over 16s. “The vaccination pass has been adopted. As soon as the law is promulgated, it will become mandatory to enter public buildings already subject to the health pass (stadium, theatre or lounge) for all spectators, practitioners, French or foreign professionals,” she wrote on twitter.

Earlier in January, Maracineanu had suggested that athletes could be exempt from France’s vaccination requirements through a “bubble” system, but the government have now scrapped any such plans.

Stanislas Guerini, the French MP and executive director for En Marche, said Djokovic’s behaviour was “irresponsible” as he discussed the Covid pass in an interview with RTL on Monday morning.

“All the big events which will take place in France will also adopt the Covid pass,” he said. “Who would understand if we asked our citizens to make an effort and respect the rules if we authorise some to get out of them?”

Djokovic arrived back in Belgrade, Serbia on Monday after being deported from Australia following the cancellation of his visa by the Australian Immigration Minister Alex Hawke. Under Australia’s visa cancellation rules, Djokovic is currently banned from re-applying for a visa for three years.

Djokovic was greeted by some supporters and journalists at the airport on his return to Serbia and as the Australian Open began on Monday, Serbian players spoke publicly about his deportation.

“I think the way they treated him was terribly wrong,” said Serbian No 3, Dusan Lajovic. “I think the decision itself was terribly wrong, and also the reason why they did it is also for me terribly wrong because based [on] just an idea, I don’t think it’s the right way.”

Laslo Djere described Djokovic’s visa cancellation as a “catastrophic situation,” and said the world will have a different opinion on Australia after Djokovic’s incident and believes he will come back stronger than ever.

“That’s also in our Serbian mentality. When we get beat down or we are treated a bad way or how we maybe don’t deserve, we just try to – especially him – tries to be inspired by that and gain strength from that.”

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