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By Richard Pagliaro | Monday, March 6, 2023


World No. 1 Novak Djokovic, unable to enter the U.S. under current COVID-19 policy, has officially withdrawn from this week's BNP Paribas Open.

Photo credit: BNP Paribas Open Facebook

Indian Wells is Tennis Paradise lost for Novak Djokovic.

World No. 1 Djokovic, unvaccinated and unable to enter the U.S. under current COVID-19 policy, has officially withdrawn from this week's BNP Paribas Open.

More: Medvedev Jabs Tsitsipas

The tournament announced Djokovic's departure on social media before the main draw was conducted.

Nikoloz Basilashvili, the 2021 runner-up to Cameron Norrie, moves into the BNP Paribas Open field in Djokovic's absence.

Though Djokovic filed for a special exemption to enter the United States in a bid to play the Sunshine Double at Indian Wells and Miami and received public support from Florida senators Rick Scott and Marco Rubio his appeal hasn't been approved.

The 35-year-old Serbian superstar joins rival Rafael Nadal, Sebastian Korda, Marin Cilic and Nick Kyrgios withdrawing from the BNP Paribas Open. While it doesn't make up for the star absences, Indian Wells is offering free parking for all throughout the BNP Paribas Open.

Djokovic is a five-time Indian Wells champion, taking his most recent BNP Paribas Open title in 2016 when he destroyed Milos Raonic 6-2, 6-0 in the most lopsided Indian Wells final since Lleyton Hewitt's 6-1, 6-1 win over Gustavo Kuerten in 2003.

The Djokovic saga has been a polarizing issue for many in tennis.

Supporters, including Hall of Famer John McEnroe, say "it's a  complete joke" Djokovic can't enter the United States now but will be permitted in two months time. Opponents say it's ridiculous 99 of the ATP's Top 100 followed Tour protocol in taking the jab and Djokovic won't yet still wants preferential treatment and back-door entry to the country.

The Indian Wells withdrawal means Djokovic will almost certainly pull out of the Miami Open, barring any governmental exemption. Miami Open qualifying begins on March 20th.

Djokovic's departure could have ranking ramifications: It opens the door for US Open champion Carlos Alcaraz, who has been battling a leg issue, to surpass the Serbian and regain world No. 1 with a strong Sunshine Double performance. Alcaraz lost to Nadal in Indian Wells last March and went on to defeat Stefanos Tsitsipas, Hubert Hurkacz and Casper Ruud en route to his maiden Masters 1000 championship at the Miami Open.

Ten-time Australian Open champion Djokovic is currently ineligible to enter the United States under COVID-19 protocol. However, the U.S. government announced it will lift emergency pandemic protocol for international travelers on May 11th, which would clear Djokovic to play the US Open in August.

In a Belgrade press conference last month, Djokovic said he was hopeful of receiving approval to play Indian Wells and Miami. 

"Everything is in process and I'm really thankful to Indian Wells and Miami for their support, publicly, and they would like me to be able to play," Djokovic told the media in Belgrade last month. "I'm really thankful for that because I have a big desire to play because I haven't played there for several years so I'm looking forward to hopefully a positive decision coming sometime soon.

"It's not in my hands so that's all I can say."

The 22-time Grand Slam champion suffered his first loss of the season in the Dubai semifinals on Friday.

In a rematch of the 2021 US Open final, Daniil Medvedev shoved Djokovic right out of Dubai 6-4, 6-4 dealing the top seed his first loss of the season while surging into his first Dubai final.

The third-seeded Medvedev snapped Djokovic's 20-match winning streak while stretching his own win streak to 13 matches. Djokovic suffered his first loss since a 3-6, 6-3, 7-5 defeat to Holger Rune in the Rolex Paris Masters final on November 6, 2022. 

Barring a last-minute exemption, Djokovic may not play another Tour-level event until his home-away-from home event at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters, which starts on April 9th.


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