Novak Djokovic has officially withdrawn from the US Open with less than two hours to go until the draw is made. The world No 6 is facing a ban from entering the country, with unvaccinated foreign nationals currently barred from travelling to America. With just four days until the final Grand Slam of the season begins, Djokovic has conceded defeat and pulled out without waiting for any potential updates to the rules. It hands his rival Rafael Nadal a huge advantage in the Grand Slam race.
Djokovic took to Twitter to announce that he would not be participating in the US Open over travel restrictions with just an hour and 40 minutes until the draw is set to be released. “Sadly, I will not be able to travel to NY this time for US Open,” he wrote.
“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!”
It comes after the US Open removed the three-time former champion from the list of players on their website and app earlier on Thursday before adding him back around an hour before Djokovic officially announced he was pulling out.
The world No 6 had been holding out in the hope that the American government would loosen restrictions and allow unvaccinated foreign nationals to travel to the country after recently promising they would review the rules “in the coming weeks”. After allowing unvaccinated individuals inside the US to receive the same freedoms as those who are vaccinated earlier this month, the CDC released a statement saying: “In the coming weeks, CDC will work to align stand-alone guidance documents, such as those for healthcare settings, congregate settings at higher risk of transmission, and travel.”
But on Wednesday, the CDC reviewed the section of their website stating the travel restrictions on unvaccinated non-US citizens and did not alter the rule that they were banned from entering the country. With just four days until the tournament begins, Djokovic has decided that time has run out for him to make it to the US Open in time and withdrawn – something that will be good news for Nadal.
The Spaniard currently leads the Grand Slam race with 22 titles to his name, with Djokovic on 21. And the Serb will be unable to catch up to his rival while being kept out of the US Open while Nadal now has the opportunity to pull further ahead if he can win a record-extending 23rd men’s Major singles title in Flushing Meadows.
Nadal is also in with a shot to regain the world No 1 ranking for the first time in more than two years if he can lift his fifth US Open trophy. And if he can stay at the top spot until the end of the year, he will also overtake Djokovic to become the oldest year-end ATP No 1 in history.
As for Djokovic, the 35-year-old will now lose 1,200 of his 4,770 ranking points as a result of being unable to defend his run to the final from last year. Depending on the results of other players, he is now at risk of dropping outside of the world’s top 10 for the first time since July 2018 – before he won Wimbledon and was ranked down at No 21.
The 21-time Major champion’s next scheduled event is the Davis Cup Finals Group Stage, being held the week after the US Open from September 13 to 18. Djokovic will be representing Serbia in Group B, where they face Nadal’s Spain though the world No 3 has not signed up to his country’s squad. The world No 6 will then play alongside Nadal on Team Europe at the Laver Cup the following weekend.