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DeSantis floats an idea to let Novak Djokovic play in Miami Open

The 22-time Grand Slam winner has been denied entry into the U.S. because of his vaccination status.
 
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Wednesday he would run a boat from The Bahamas to Florida to allow 22-time Grand Slam champion Novak Djokovic to compete in the Miami Open later this month to circumvent governmental restrictions related to his vaccination status.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Wednesday he would run a boat from The Bahamas to Florida to allow 22-time Grand Slam champion Novak Djokovic to compete in the Miami Open later this month to circumvent governmental restrictions related to his vaccination status. [ KAMRAN JEBREILI | AP ]
Published March 8, 2023|Updated March 8, 2023

Still unable to compete in ATP Tour events on U.S. soil because of his vaccination status, men’s tennis icon Novak Djokovic has begun pulling out of upcoming domestic tournaments.

As a result, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has emerged as an ally — or in this case, first mate — in trying to help the 22-time Grand Slam champion sail around the governmental restrictions.

DeSantis, who on Tuesday sent a letter to President Joe Biden asking for a way to get Djokovic into the country for this month’s Miami Open, now has suggested getting the Serbian star onto Florida soil by sea if not by air.

DeSantis cited a 2021 proclamation from Biden that stated unvaccinated non-U.S. citizens could not be permitted into the country by air, according to MSN.com. The governor’s argument is that boat travel isn’t stipulated.

“(Djokovic) poses zero risk to the United States, zero risk to the state of Florida, and zero risk to Miami,” DeSantis told an audience earlier this week.

“So he should be allowed to compete. Now, I would run a boat from The Bahamas here for him. I would do that 100%. But I think his people are looking at it, and I’m not sure that’s the way they want to come into the country, which I understand. I think it would be a great moment, but nevertheless.”

The United States is the only country on the ATP Tour that still requires a coronavirus vaccination for international players to enter events, according to Eurosport.com. Djokovic on Sunday withdrew from the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, California. Sen. Rick Scott said on Twitter that the Department of Homeland Security had rejected Djokovic’s vaccine waiver request, which would have allowed him to play back to back at Indian Wells and Miami, which runs March 19-April 2.

The United States is ending its COVID-19 emergency declaration May 11, a move that will allow foreign air travelers to enter the country without being vaccinated.

Djokovic, 35, hasn’t played in the events in Indian Wells and Miami since 2019.

“He is being discriminated against because he didn’t (get vaccinated),” DeSantis said.

“Not only has he not wanted to take it, we now have the data to show these booster shots aren’t preventing you from getting infected. People get infected anyways. And so it’s like, now you have this rule, and we’re one of the only countries in the world that has this rule that you have to show shot records to come in as a foreign visitor on an airplane.

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“Never mind that Djokovic has already had COVID.”

Contact Joey Knight at jknight@tampabay.com. Follow @TBTimes_Bulls