It was not exactly a surprise when news broke that Novak Djokovic is not going to participate in this year’s US Open due to his COVID-19 vaccination status. However, one of his longtime rivals considers it an unfortunate situation. This week, Rafael Nadal said Djokovic’s absence from the US Open is “very sad news.”
Djokovic, the 2022 Wimbledon champion and current world No. 6, is not allowed to travel to the United States due to the country’s restrictions on unvaccinated foreign nationals. The unvaccinated Serbian was the 2021 US Open runner-up after losing to Daniil Medvedev in the title match and was expected to be competitive this year, too.
In a tweet, he said: “Sadly, I will not be able to travel to NY this time for US Open. Thank you #NoleFam for your messages of love and support. Good luck to my fellow players! I’ll keep in good shape and positive spirit and wait for an opportunity to compete again. See you soon tennis world!”. Djokovic was ineligible to travel to the United States due to Covid protocols as it required him to be vaccinated.
Here is a reaction from Nadal, a close friend of Djokovic.
“From my personal perspective, it’s very sad news,” Nadal said Friday during a press conference. “It’s always a shame when the best players of the world are not able to play a tournament because of injuries or because of different reasons.”
Nadal withdrew from this year’s Wimbledon ahead of his semifinal match against Nick Kyrgios because of an injury, but he is back on the court and chasing his 23rd Grand Slam singles title in the US Open.
Although reaching that goal might be easier without his Serbian opponent, the No. 2 seed Nadal would rather win while competing against the best.
“In this case, not having one of the best players in the history in the draw of a Grand Slam is always an important miss. It’s tough for the fans, tough for the tournament,” Nadal said. “In my opinion, tough for the players, too, because we want to have the best field possible. But, on the other hand, I repeat what I’ve said plenty of times: the sport in some ways is bigger than any player.”
Nadal has certainly missed his fair share of matches. This is the first time he returns to the US Open since he won it in 2019. In 2020, the Spaniard chose not to travel due to safety concerns relating to the COVID-19 pandemic. Last year, he skipped the tournament because he was dealing with a recurring foot injury.
“I’ve missed a lot of important events in my tennis career because of injuries,” Nadal said. “Last year I was not here. Two years ago I was not here. The tournament continues. The world of tennis keeps going, even if it’s not good news for everyone.”
The 2022 US Open is taking place Aug. 29 through Sept. 11 at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center at Flushing Meadows in New York.