“We tried to get Novak Djokovic to be allowed to get an exemption, but that wasn’t able to happen,” Miami Open tournament director James Blake said.
By Richard Pagliaro | @Tennis_Now | Friday, March 17, 2023
The sun has set on Novak Djokovic’s Sunshine Double hopes.
World No. 1 Djokovic will not play the Miami Open, which begins next week. After withdrawing from this week’s BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells, Djokovic’s Miami departure means he will miss the Sunshine Double, a swing he’s dominated, again.
Tournament director James Blake told Tennis Channel, despite the efforts of the tournament, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Florida Senators Marco Rubio and Rick Scott, Djokovic did not receive an exemption to enter the United States.
“We tried to get Novak Djokovic to be allowed to get an exemption, but that wasn’t able to happen,” Miami Open tournament director Blake told Tennis Channel’s Steve Weissman and Prakash Amritraj on Friday afternoon.
The 35-year-old unvaccinated Serbian superstar is current unable to enter the U.S. under COVID-19 policy for international travelers. Restrictions are scheduled to be lifted on May 11th, which means Djokovic will be eligible to enter the United States, barring any unforeseen policy change, to play the U.S. Open in August.
Blake said the tournament wants six-time champion Djokovic in the field, but ultimately it’s a government decision.
“Obviously, we’re one of the premier tournaments in the world, we’d like to have the best players that can play,” Blake told Tennis Channel. “We did all that we could. We tried to talk to the government, but that’s out of our hands.”
US Open champion Carlos Alcaraz can surpass Djokovic and regain the world No. 1 ranking by winning Indian Wells this weekend. In Djokovic’s absence, Alcaraz will be the top seed in Miami where he is defending champion.
A year ago, Alcaraz electrified Miami fans with a rousing run to his maiden Masters title defeating Casper Ruud in the 2022 Miami Open final.
It’s like Djokovic’s next tournament will be his home-away-from home event the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters, which starts on April 8th. Interestingly, rival Rafael Nadal is also on the entry list for Monte-Carlo.
While Governor DeSantis suggested Djokovic could legally enter the country by boat, prompting some fans to imagine a Djokovic Mission-Impossible-style stealth entry into the States captured by cameras for a future Netflix episode, ultimately all doors to the States are shut to the 22-time Grand Slam champion until mid May.
“We tried, he wasn’t able to play. Same result he had in Indian Wells where I know Tommy Haas did as much as he could with the staff there,” Blake told Tennis Channel. “We tried to get Novak Djokovic to be allowed to get an exemption, but that wasn’t able to happen.
“We’d love to have him. He’s our greatest champion: he won it six times here so we’d obviously love to have him here. Unfortunately, that’s way above my pay grade.”
Djokovic is the all-time ATP Masters 1000 king who has played dynamic tennis at the Sunshine Double. Djokovic’s last Miami Open appearance was in 2019 when Roberto Bautista Agut upset the Serbian superstar.
Photo credit: Lindsey Godwin/Miami Open