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How a New Vaccination Law Could Prevent Novak Djokovic From Playing in the French Open

20-time major singles champion Novak Djokovic left Australia on Sunday after losing a legal challenge to a decision which revoked his visa from the country for the second time.

As a result of his deportation, he won't be competing in the year's first major championship, the Australian Open.

It's possible, however, that Djokovic will also miss the year's second major, the French Open, due to a new vaccination law in France. 

On Sunday, French parliament approved legislation that will require people to have a certificate of vaccination to enter public places such as sports venues, restaurants, cafes, cinemas and long-distance trains.

“The rule is simple. The vaccine pass will be imposed, as soon as the law is promulgated, in establishments that were already subject to the health pass,” the ministry said, per Reuters.

“This will apply to everyone who is a spectator or a professional sportsperson. And this until further notice.

“Now, as far as Roland Garros is concerned, it's in May. The situation may change between now and then and we hope that it will be more favorable. So we'll see, but clearly there's no exemption.”

Previously, France's sports minister had said that Djokovic could play in this year's French Open, even if he was not vaccinated for COVID-19.

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Djokovic, who has not been vaccinated, initially traveled to Australia on Jan. 5, after Victoria state authorities had granted him a medical exemption to the country’s strict COVID-19 vaccination requirements. However, upon arrival, he was forced to spend eight hours in airport detention in Melbourne, where he later learned his visa had been canceled.

In lieu of departing the country, he then was transferred to an immigration detention hotel while he appealed the decision, having his lawyer argue that a positive test in December superseded the country’s vaccination requirement. 

But upon it being upheld, he flew out of Melbourne on a flight bound for Dubai. 

The French Open is set to begin May 30, and Djokovic, as with the Australian Open, is the reigning champion after defeating Stefanos Tsitsipas in five sets last year.

The ATP said last week that 97% of the top 100 players are vaccinated leading into this year's Australian Open. According to Sports Illustrated's Jon Wertheim, that number is up from just 48% as of Oct. 8, 2021.

Djokovic said in a statement Sunday he was “uncomfortable that the focus of the past weeks has been on me and I hope that we can all now focus on the game and tournament I love. I would like to wish the players, tournament officials, staff, volunteers and fans all the best for the tournament.”

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