Djokovic ‘used Billie Jean King and government sources’ in US bid

Novak Djokovic jokes about his age at the Australian Open

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Novak Djokovic left no stone unturned in his failed bid to play at Indian Wells this week, reportedly enlisting some high-profile help to try and get his travel ban overturned. Like last year, the Serbian star is again absent from the BNP Paribas Open, over his refusal to be vaccinated against Covid.

With the States currently refusing to welcome travellers who haven’t been jabbed, the Serbian’s stance also cost him his place at the US Open last year. However, he was able to triumph at the Australian Open in January after authorities lifted his three-year ban on entering the country, following his explosive visa saga that saw him deported home a day before the event began in 2022.

But amid much criticism, President Joe Biden has stood firm on his travel policy. That’s despite being warned the ‘outdaded vaccine policy’ was costing the country £67 billion in revenue.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has also written an open letter to Biden imploring that Djokovic be permitted to play in Miami later this month. But the 35-year-old himself was reportedly doing all he could to play in the US, with it being said he made contact with US Government officials and tennis icon Bille Jean King in the build-up to Indian Wells.

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A report in the New York Times Djokovic and his team began a ‘flurry of phone calls and lobbying’ of people they knew who may have connections with the Biden administration – including King. But the process for the time being has been unsuccessful. Some of those who were seeked out reportedly requested anonymity.

The report also adds that Djokovic and manager Edoardo Artaldi also spoke with Ken Solomon, the chief executive of the Tennis Channel and an ally of President Biden. Arguing the 22-time Slam champion should have been given an exemption, Solomon said this week: “Nearly a million fans attend over their combined near four weeks in Southern California then Miami, and the economic impact means many millions in revenue for these local communities, which if successful in attracting fans will either prosper or otherwise cost people jobs.”

The iconic King meanwhile, worked with the Biden administration in 2022 to help commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Title IX venture, designed to provide equal chances in American sport to young females.

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IMG, the company who oversees the Miami event, also reportedly had executives speak with Florida Republicans Senator Marco Rubio and Senator Rick Scott, both of whom wrote to Biden. But as it stands the all-time great remains exiled from the US.

Djokovic has continually insisted he won’t get jabbed simply to be able to enter tournaments. That’s despite him being desperate to overtake Rafa Nadal’s haul of 22 Grand Slam titles, a mark he equalled in Melbourne Park this year.

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