The world’s top male tennis player had asked for special permission to enter given the US ban on unvaccinated foreigners.
Novak Djokovic has formally withdrawn from the draw for the Indian Wells tournament, according to organizers, an indication that the world number one’s application for a COVID-19 vaccine exemption to enter the United States may have failed.
The Serb, one of the most high-profile athletes not vaccinated against the virus, applied to the US government for special permission last month to play in ATP Masters events in Indian Wells and Miami.
“World number 1 Novak Djokovic has withdrawn from the 2023 BNP Paribas Open. With his withdrawal, Nikoloz Basilashvili moves into the field,” the organizers said in a statement late on Sunday.
The US is currently banning unvaccinated foreigners from entering the country, a policy that is expected to be lifted when the government ends its COVID-19 emergency declarations on May 11.
Djokovic has not competed in the back-to-back ATP Masters events in Indian Wells and Miami since 2019, two of the biggest tournaments on the ATP calendar and known as the “Sunshine Double”.
No one from Djokovic’s team was immediately available to comment on the withdrawal.
Last Friday, Florida Senators Rick Scott and Marco Rubio wrote a letter to US President Joe Biden urging him to grant the waiver request.
Tournament director Tommy Haas of Indian Wells, the US Tennis Association and the US Open also hoped that the 22-time Grand Slam champion would be allowed to participate.
He would have been a strong favorite to win his sixth Indian Wells title when the tournament kicks off in the Southern California desert on Wednesday.
Djokovic, who was kicked out of last year’s Australian Open for not being vaccinated and banned from entering the US for the 2022 US Open, has said he would rather skip Grand Slams than get a COVID-19 shot.
He was allowed to participate in the Australian Open this year, which he won.