Novak Djokovic likely to be allowed to play in Italian Open, say officials | Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic could be allowed to enter this year’s Italian Open despite the men’s world No 1 being unvaccinated, according to officials in Italy.

The country’s cabinet undersecretary for sports, 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 required”.

“Perhaps Djokovic will most likely not be allowed in a hotel or a restaurant, but if he wants to play he can play,” said Vezzali, a former Olympic fencer and a 16-time world champion in foil.

The cabinet undersecretary added that she did not expect Covid-19 vaccine mandates would be in place by May, when the Masters 1000 tournament takes place in Rome.

The news has sparked a row in Italy, with people describing the decision as “hypocritical” and “shameful”. “It sounds like the rules do not apply to everyone,” said a user on Twitter. “You need a Covid vaccine passport to work in Italy, but if you are Djokovic you don’t need one,” said another.

On Tuesday, Djokovic told BBC he would rather miss out on grand slam tournaments than be vaccinated against Covid as he spoke in depth for the first time since being deported from Australia last month because of his vaccination status. Asked if he would miss the French Open over his vaccine stance, he replied: “That is the price that I’m willing to pay.” Asked if this was also his attitude towards Wimbledon, he said: “Yes.”

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The reigning champion will be unable to play at Roland Garros as things stand because of France’s recent adoption of Covid passports. However, it is believed he should be able to compete at Wimbledon in June.

The Rome Masters are set to take place in Rome from 2-15 May. Djokovic won the title in 2008, 2011, 2014, 2015 and 2020 and lost the final in 2021 after he was defeated by Australian Open champion Rafa Nadal.

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