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World No. 1 Novak Djokovic is free and clear to defend his Wimbledon title this summer despite being unvaccinated against Covid-19, All England Club chief executive Sally Bolton said Tuesday.

During the annual spring briefing ahead of Wimbledon, which begins June 27, Bolton said that “whilst, of course, it is encouraged” that all players get vaccinated, “it will not be a condition of entry to compete” at the grass-court Grand Slam tournament this year.

Djokovic, 34, has won six of his 20 Grand Slam titles at Wimbledon: 2011, ‘14, ‘15, ’18,’19 and ’21.

The world No. 1 remains tied with Roger Federer at 20 majors, one behind Rafael Nadal’s 21, after Djokovic was deported ahead of the Australian Open because he was unvaccinated. Nadal, 35, went on to win the title. Federer announced Tuesday he would play Basel in his home country of Switzerland in October despite not having played since Wimbledon while he recovers from a third knee surgery.

Djokovic — who has said he got Covid twice, once each in 2020 and 2021 —said in February he would be willing to miss Grand Slam events in defense of his vaccination status.

“I understand that not being vaccinated today I’m unable to travel to most of the tournaments at the moment,” Djokovic told the BBC in an exclusive on-camera interview.

“And that’s a price you’re willing to pay?” the BBC’s media editor Amol Rajan asked.

“That is the price that I’m willing to pay,” Djokovic replied.

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He was forced to miss the so-called “Sunshine Swing” of Indian Wells and Miami because he was not allowed to come into the U.S. while unvaccinated.

Djokovic most recently played at the Serbia Open on clay last week, where he reached the final and lost in three sets to Russian Andrey Rublev.

Russian players like Rublev, the world No. 8, and No. 2 Daniil Medvedev, as well as Belarusian players, were banned from Wimbledon because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Djokovic has said that decision discriminates against individual players.

The U.S. Tennis Association has said that it will follow whatever governmental rules are in place regarding Covid 19 vaccination status when the U.S. Open is held starting in late August.

(The AP contributed reporting.)

Source: Forbes

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