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MAILBAG: Has Novak Djokovic been 'hung out to dry' by the US Open?

Has Novak Djokovic been 'hung out to dry' by a US Open that has failed both him and tennis fans in general? It's Monday Mailbag time.
Novak Djokovic at US Open

In the first of a weekly mailbag feature, one TennisBuzz reader believes the US Open has failed Novak Djokovic - and tennis fans in general - this year.

Dear TennisBuzz,

I can’t be alone in thinking the US Open have hung Novak Djokovic out to dry by not seeking an exemption for unvaccinated players?

It’s very hard to see who wins from all this other than his rivals, and even they will know any major they win is devalued to at least an extent if Djokovic was not in the draw.

I know we all have our favourite players and all generally love to hate someone, but one thing all tennis fans can surely agree upon is that we all want to see the best players playing each other.

The tournament itself has done nothing but devalue its own product, ripped off its audience, and disrespected arguably the greatest player the sport has ever seen.

It’s the second time in three years that Djokovic has basically been told by the US Open that he is unwelcome to play there (editor's note: after he was defaulted in 2020) and that cannot be right on any level!

Casandra Green (UK)

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Editor’s reply: It’s hard to disagree, Casandra, and if our social media notifications are anything to go by, you are certainly not alone in your views.

Whatever anyone thinks about his views on vaccination, Novak Djokovic won three of the four Grand Slams last season and was the defeated finalist in the other. For him to not even be allowed to defend the points he won in three of them is not a good situation – or a good look – for tennis.

The US Open was the only one Djokovic failed to win last year, but his breaking down into tears under the sheer pressure created by his chase of history in the final was one of the most remarkable sporting moments of 2021 without a doubt.

As you rightly say, the US Open are not exercising a policy of not allowing unvaccinated players to enter the tournament. They are simply not challenging the policy of the US government not to allow unvaccinated foreign nationals into the country. It’s a bit of a kop out.

Novak Djokovic crying under towel at US Open

Ultimately the decision is always going to lie with the US government here, just as the Australian government made the decisions at the start of the year. However, if the US Open have no objection to unvaccinated players taking part in tournament – and the fact Tennys Sandgren is being welcomed shows they do not – then why not seek the exemption and at least try to support Djokovic and any other who is affected?

Whilst we will stop short of suggesting anything untoward in terms of their motivation, the vest least you can say is the tournament organisers have simply passed the buck. Wimbledon were criticised for being overly political in their decision to ban Russian and Belarusian players, and perhaps that has frightened US Open organisers into washing their hands of the decision to avoid a similar backlash?

That looks most likely, but the fact remains that the US Open’s remit is to do all they possibly can to stage the best tennis tournament they possible can for fans to enjoy. At the moment, they are failing in that remit and hopefully a bit of common sense eventually prevails, although there appears to be a serious dearth of that in tennis right now.

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