Novak Djokovic: 'Impossible' to play in U.S. Open if 'extreme' COVID-19 precautions are in place

The U.S. Open is planning to go on as scheduled despite the COVID-19 global pandemic, but one of its biggest stars has reservations about playing in that atmosphere — but not because he might get sick.

In an interview on Serbia’s Pvra TV, three-time U.S. Open singles champion Novak Djokovic revealed some of the precautionary measures that could be in place when the U.S. Open kicks off on Aug. 24. While the U.S. Open has not announced any of the precautionary measures it will be adopting, Djokovic already sees them as major obstacles toward his participation.


"I had a telephone conversation with the leaders of world tennis. There were talks about the continuation of the season, mostly about the U.S. Open due in late August, but it's not known whether it will be held.

"The rules that they told us that we would have to respect to be there, to play at all, they are extreme. We would not have access to Manhattan, we would have to sleep in hotels at the airport, to be tested twice or three times per week.

"Also, we could bring one person to the club, which is really impossible. I mean, you need your coach, then a fitness trainer, then a physiotherapist."

Djokovic is concerned that the U.S. Open organizers want the event to go on no matter what, purely for economic reasons, regardless of how those precautions might affect the players. He thinks that other players may have a tough time accepting those terms.

Novak Djokovic is concerned that the health precautions for the U.S. Open might be too "extreme" for him to participate. (Photo by Andrej ISAKOVIC / AFP) (Photo by ANDREJ ISAKOVIC/AFP via Getty Images)

While Djokovic’s opinion may have more weight because he’s the world No. 1, it isn’t shared by everyone. Lower-ranked players who don’t travel with the same retinue of staff likely wouldn’t have an issue with limiting the number of people they can bring to the club, and could be willing to accept the health precautions Djokovic called “extreme” so they can play and earn some winnings. Not every tennis player is sitting on a pile of money like Djokovic.

Rafael Nadal also expressed some reservations to ESPN about tennis restarting too quickly because COVID-19 is still very real, very contagious, and continuing to infect people around the world. While some countries have recovered, others — like the United States — have not, and the virus is still running rampant.

"For me, [it] is very difficult to separate the status that the world is living from my real perspective on the world of tennis, no? We need to be responsible, we need to be sure that the situation is safe enough, and then of course try to come back to our tour when the things are clear."

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