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French law could keep Novak Djokovic out of Roland Garros

France’s new law requiring people have certificate of vaccination to enter public places could keep Novak Djokovic out of French OpenGETTY IMAGES

Novak Djokovic could be "barred from playing in the French Open" as things stand now after the French Sports Ministry today said that there would be "no exemption from France’s new vaccine pass law," according to Julien Pretot of REUTERS. France’s vaccine pass law, approved by parliament yesterday, will "require people to have a certificate of vaccination to enter public places such as restaurants, cafes, cinemas and long-distance trains." The ministry said, "The rule is simple. The vaccine pass will be imposed, as soon as the law is promulgated. ... This will apply to everyone who is a spectator or a professional sportsperson." The ministry added, "As far as Roland Garros is concerned, it’s in May. The situation may change between now and then" (REUTERS, 1/17).

MORE PROBLEMS TO COME? The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Joshua Robinson writes the U.K., which hosts Wimbledon, has "no such restrictions in place." But the U.S. Open also would "become a problem" for Djokovic because non-U. S. citizens are "required to be fully vaccinated to enter the country, much like Australia." Even if Djokovic were to "obtain an exemption for the U.S.," his chances of playing could be "further complicated, in theory, by New York City’s vaccine mandates for indoor spaces." An unvaccinated player could "run afoul of the rules" as soon as the roof on Arthur Ashe Court "slides shut for rain" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 1/17).

END OF AN ERA? In N.Y., Christopher Clarey wrote it would come as "no surprise" if Sunday "marked a turning point" for Djokovic and the sport. A new generation of "taller, talented stars" in men’s tennis was preparing to pursue the title at the Grand Slam tournament Djokovic has "dominated like no other and may never play again." Second-seeded Daniil Medvedev and third-seeded Alexander Zverev, who both beat Djokovic in matches that "truly mattered" in '21, are the "favorites in Djokovic’s absence in Melbourne." The notion that Djokovic might "match the global popularity" of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal "seems far-fetched." Federer and Nadal's era has been "one of the most captivating and enduring in sports." But their era is in its "latter stages," given their "ages and the talent rising in their wake." And all that happened in Melbourne over the last 11 days could "accelerate the transition" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/16).

NO SHORTCUTS ALLOWED: In L.A., Helene Elliott writes the "extra attention and revenue" that might have been generated by Djokovic were "powerful motivations for [Tennis Australia CEO Craig] Tiley to somehow slip Djokovic into Australia." The praise Tiley had "anticipated" has turned into "cries for his dismissal." Tiley should have "demanded clarity" when communicating with state and federal officials, and should have "realized flouting the rules wouldn’t go over well among Aussies" (L.A. TIMES, 1/17).

DOUBLE WHAMMY: In DC, Michael Miller writes the tournament Djokovic had been "favored to win for a 10th time was finally underway without him," but the "shadow of the scandal" still hung over the championship as it began. And even with Djokovic gone, the omicron variant is "here to stay." Australia is in the midst of "one of the sharpest spikes in cases per capita in the world." Djokovic’s absence and the virus’ presence proved to be a "double whammy driving down attendance." Victoria state officials ordered ticket sales "capped at 50 percent of capacity" (WASHINGTON POST, 1/17).

UNHAPPY HOLIDAY: Tennis Channel personalities agreed this has been a bout of bad publicity for the Australian Open. Steve Weissman: "The ‘Happy Slam’ turned into the ‘Haphazard Slam,’ with the most decorated champion now deported and a draw much delayed.” Martina Navratilova: “It’s just so unfortunate that we’re talking about this rather than tennis.” Jon Wertheim said this was “not the kind of pre-tournament publicity that people wanted.” Lindsay Davenport: “There have been so many mistakes on every level.” Navratilova: “We’re not talking tennis, we’re talking about this kind of political situation, and now the players have to talk about it in the press. ... It’s been a mess.” Wertheim noted the issues around Peng Shuai saw “tennis coming together and taking this stance against authoritarian China." But in a "matter of weeks, this sport looks, honestly, so foolish in the world’s eyes, and all that goodwill was squandered” (“Tennis Channel Live,” Tennis Channel, 1/16). ESPN’s James Blake said the Djokovic issue is "taking over all the headlines" around the Australian Open, and "it doesn’t look good for really anyone" (“Anderson Cooper 360,” CNN, 1/14).

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