Novak Djokovic could be cleared to take part in this year’s Italian Open despite the men’s world No.1 not being vaccinated, according to Italian officials.
The country’s undersecretary for sport, Valentina Vezzali, said: “If Djokovic wants to come and play in Rome, he can do it”, adding that tennis is “an outdoor sport and the tighter green pass is not not necessary”.
“Maybe Djokovic probably won’t be allowed in a hotel or restaurant, but if he wants to play, he can play,” said Vezzali, a former Olympic fencer and 16-time world foil champion.
The undersecretary to the cabinet added that she does not expect the Covid-19 vaccination mandates to be in place by May, when the Masters 1000 tournament takes place in Rome.
The news sparked a row in Italy, with people describing the decision as “hypocritical” and “shameful”. “Looks like the rules don’t apply to everyone,” one user tweeted. “You need a Covid vaccine passport to work in Italy, but if you’re Djokovic you don’t need it,” said another.
On Tuesday, Djokovic told the BBC he would rather miss Grand Slams than be vaccinated against Covid as he spoke in depth for the first time since being expelled from Australia last month due to his vaccination status. When asked if he would miss the French Open because of his vaccine stance, he replied: “That’s the price I’m willing to pay.” When asked if that was also his attitude towards Wimbledon, he replied: “Yes.”
The defending champion won’t be able to play at Roland Garros as things stand due to France’s recent adoption of Covid passports. However, it is believed that he should be able to compete at Wimbledon in June.
The Rome Masters will take place in Rome from May 2-15. Djokovic won the title in 2008, 2011, 2014, 2015 and 2020 and lost the final in 2021 after being beaten by Australian Open champion Rafa Nadal.