Novak Djokovic: Ron DeSantis would ‘run a boat from the Bahamas’ to allow world No. 1 into the US to play at Miami Open
(CNN) Time may be running out for Novak Djokovic to be accepted into the U.S. to play in Indian Wells, but American politicians — notably Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis — are lobbying to change the rules and allow the world No. 1 to place in time for the Miami Open.
The US still requires international visitors to be vaccinated against Covid-19, and the Serb, who has previously said he remains unvaccinated, confirmed he had applied for special permission to enter the country ahead of both tournaments.
However, Indian Wells organizers announced on Sunday that Djokovic had withdrawn from the tournament, with the main draw starting on Wednesday.
DeSantis said he would “run a boat from the Bahamas” for Djokovic to compete at the Miami Open later this month.
“I would drive a boat from the Bahamas here for it. I would one hundred percent,” DeSantis said at a news conference in Tampa on Wednesday.
“I think his people are seeing that, and I’m not sure that’s the way they want to come to the country, which I understand. I think it would be a great moment, but you know, however.”
According to the Director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, proof of Covid-19 vaccination is required for non-US citizens, non-immigrant passengers arriving from a foreign country to the US by air, although this applies to other forms of travel.
On Tuesday, DeSantis had called on US President Joe Biden to step in and allow Djokovic to compete in the tournament.
“The only thing keeping Novak Djokovic from participating in the Miami Open tennis tournament is President Biden’s misguided and unscientific demand for a COVID-19 vaccination for foreign travelers,” DeSantis, who has separately vowed to permanently ban mandates related to the mitigation of the coronavirus as he considers a presidential offer, said on Twitter.
“Mr. President — remove your restrictions and let him compete,” he added.
Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic poses with the trophy.
Republican senators Rick Scott and Marco Rubio of Florida also asked the US president to allow Djokovic into the country to play.
“For a question about the vaccination requirement, I direct you to the CDC — they’re the ones who deal with that,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Wednesday.
The vaccine requirement, she said, “is still in place and we expect everyone to adhere to our country’s rules, whether as a participant or spectator.”
US Open organizers said on Friday that they and the United States Tennis Association were “hopeful” that Djokovic was successful in his petition.
“Novak Djokovic is one of the greatest tennis players of all time and a six-time Miami Open champion,” the Miami Open said on Twitter on Friday.
“We hope that he will be allowed back into the country so that Floridians will have the opportunity to see him compete once again.”
CNN has reached out to representatives of Djokovic and the US Department of Homeland Security for comment.
“Look, last year I missed like Indian Wells, Miami and all the US Open,” 22-time Grand Slam winner Djokovic told reporters in Belgrade last month.
“So it wouldn’t be the first time if it happens. I mean, I hope it doesn’t happen, but that’s all I can do. All I can do is hope right now because, you know, my position remains i There is nothing else I can do but wish for a positive result,” he said.
Djokovic returned to position no. 1 in the world when he defeated Stefanos Tsitsipas to win a record 10th Australian Open in January.
It was his 22nd major title, which tied him with Rafael Nadal for the most Grand Slam titles in men’s tennis history.
The Miami Open main draw begins on March 22 and the tournament will be held on April 2.
Betsy Klein and Kit Maher contributed reporting