By Richard Pagliaro | Thursday, March 3, 2022
A decision by the French government paves the way for Novak Djokovic to defend his Roland Garros crown and compete in the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters.
Photo credit: Roland Garros Facebook
Novak Djokovic has the green light to return to the red clay of Roland Garros.
Defending Roland Garros champion Djokovic will be allowed to defend his crown in May after the French government announced it would end mandatory indoor masking and COVID-19 vaccination pass requirements on March 14.
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The move means unvaccinated Djokovic, who was kicked out of Australia and unable to defend his Melbourne crown, can play the clay major from May 22 and the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters scheduled for April 10-17 in provided government protocol holds.
French Prime Minister Jean Castrex has announced that vaccine passports will no longer be required to enter venues or arenas from March 14.
“The situation is improving thanks to our collective efforts,” said French Prime Minister Jean Castex in remarks published by L’Equipe. “The conditions are met for a new phase of relaxation of the measures. From Monday March 14, we will suspend the application of the vaccination pass wherever it applies. Second measure on the same date, end of the compulsory wearing of the mask , except in public passenger transport.”
The move means the second-ranked Serbian, who is currently unable to enter the United States to play in Indian Wells or Miami, can expect a revival of red clay and a shot to renew his Grand Slam pursuit against rival Rafael Nadal.
Thirteen-time Roland Garros champion Nadal overtook Daniil Medvedev in the Australian Open final to claim a 21st men’s Grand Slam crown. If 20-time Grand Slam champion Djokovic defended Paris, he would equal Nadal’s record.
Ahead of his return match in Dubai last month, Djokovic said he planned to remain unvaccinated and understood his tournament schedule could be reduced.
“I just have to follow the rules,” said Djokovic, 34. “Whatever tournament I can play, I will try to go to this country and play the tournament. Obviously, I don’t intend to play the full program. It was also not my intention – as you mentioned – and my goal before this season or the season before.
“I was trying to aim to play my best at Grand Slams and some of the 1000 events we have, playing for my country. Those were the biggest motivations I had in terms of the schedule.”
Djokovic said the whole debacle in Australia has given him even more motivation to compete when he can.
“Right now the situation is obviously different for me. I really can’t choose right now,” Djokovic said. “It’s really about where I can go and play. Wherever I have an opportunity, I’ll probably use that opportunity and go play because that’s what I do, that’s what I do. always like to do.”
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Fighting back two sets for the first time in a Slam final, a determined Djokovic beat a valiant Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-7(6), 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 to win his 19th major championship and propelling itself halfway through the calendar Grand Slam of Roland Garros 2021.
Djokovic’s comeback conquest over Tsitsipas came two days after the Serb went through six straight games as he dethroned Nadal 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(4), 6-2 in a thrilling French Open semi-final which escalated into a match for the ages.
“Definitely the best match I’ve been in at Roland Garros for me,” Djokovic said after battling rival Nadal in a brilliant and grueling semi-final. “And the best three games I’ve played in my entire career, considering the quality of tennis, playing my biggest rival on the court where he’s had so much success and been the dominant force for the last 15 years and more, and the atmosphere that was completely electric. For both players, a lot of support. Just amazing.”
In May, the rivals could face off again on Center Court with history riding on the red clay.