Tennis

Novak Djokovic clear to defend French Open title, tournament organizers say

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French Open organizers said Wednesday that Novak Djokovic is allowed to defend his title as the tournament prepares to stage what is expected to be the first Grand Slam without any coronavirus-related restrictions since the pandemic began two years ago.

On Monday, France lifted restrictions in almost all public spaces except hospitals, nursing homes and public transport, meaning the Roland Garros stadium should be operating at full capacity.

« As things stand, nothing stands in the way of Djokovic taking part in the French Open, » tournament director Amelie Mauresmo said at a news conference Wednesday.

Djokovic, the 20-time Grand Slam winner, was unable to defend his Australian Open title in January after being deported from the country. He had initially been admitted to the tournament despite not being vaccinated against COVID-19.

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Djokovic, 34, is also out of the ATP 1000 tournaments at Indian Wells and Miami this month, unable to enter the United States without proof of vaccination.

While that is not required to enter France or any sporting event in the country, French tennis federation president Gilles Moretton warned that things could change before the tournament starts May 22.

« There’s still a circulating virus, and we have to be cautious, » Moretton said. « If things were to happen again and the government would take new measures, we would not be excluded from these measures. »

Moretton was optimistic that the Roland Garros grounds would be full after the 2020 and 2021 crowd sizes were affected by COVID-19.

« We started selling tickets on March 8 and 500,000 of the 600,000 have already been sold, » Moretton said at a news conference. « Out of the 150,000 tickets for the night sessions, 100,000 have been sold. »

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