HomeSportsTennisItaly facing backlash over allowing Novak Djokovic to play without vaccine

Italy facing backlash over allowing Novak Djokovic to play without vaccine

The decision to allow Novak Djokovic to play at the Italian Open has prompted “dozens of emails every day” from parents unhappy at supposed double standards.

A government official last week suggested that Djokovic would be permitted to play on the clay courts in Rome in May despite his unvaccinated status.

The country’s cabinet undersecretary for sports, Valentina Vezzali, explained that as tennis is “an outdoor sport” and no vaccine mandate is expected to be in place in May, the 20-time Grand Slam champion would be able to compete – even if is not allowed to enter a hotel or a restaurant under the Covid rules for unvaccinated individuals in Italy.

The ruling was immediately criticised by a number of Italians, with Twitter users describing it as “hypocritical” and “shameful”.

Giovanni Malago, the president of the Italian Olympic Committee, has now revealed the level of criticism, and added that he believes it “wouldn’t be right” if the Serbian is allowed to play.

“It absolutely wouldn’t be right,” Malago told Italian broadcaster RAI. “Even if [he] showers in a camper and eat and sleep in improvised situations, the message is totally wrong.

“I get dozens of emails every day from mums and dads who are furious because their children don’t have the green pass and cannot do sport.

“Explain to me why a champion who is in the same situation can.”

To enter indoor sporting events in Italy, people must have a “Super Green Pass” showing proof of vaccination or being recently recovered from a Covid infection.

Djokovic tested positive for the virus in December, and later admitted knowingly breaking self-isolation rules to attend an interview and photoshoot.

Despite being granted an exemption to play as an unvaccinated player, the 34-year-old was denied the chance to defend his Australian Open title after being deported from the country having included false information on his immigration forms.

The Italian Open would in theory form part of several leading players’ build-ups to the French Open at Roland-Garros, but Djokovic is set to miss out on the Paris event due to France need for those attending sporting events to be vaccinated.

Speaking to the BBC, Djokovic confirmed that he was prepared to miss Grand Slams over his stance on the vaccine, saying: “That is the price that I’m willing to pay.”

Djokovic returned to competitive tennis with a straight-sets win over Lorenzo Musetti in Dubai on Monday.

Stay Connected
Must Read
You might also like


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here