Novak Djokovic is under threat of a grand slam exile after he was told he would need to be vaccinated to play at the French Open and Wimbledon gave no guarantees he would be allowed to defend his title this summer.
The French government became the latest to ban those refusing to be vaccinated against coronavirus from the country’s stadiums in a move which will also impact the Six Nations and Chelsea's Champions League campaign.
Djokovic faces being locked out of three of the four majors, with the United States having already joined Australia in imposing a policy of mandatory vaccinations on foreign visitors.
Wimbledon also provided no assurances that it would allow Djokovic to play – even if the UK government continued to permit unvaccinated overseas sportspeople to come here to compete and train.
He appeared to have been cleared last week to defend both his French Open and Wimbledon titles when the respective governments confirmed they had no plans to ban unvaccinated sportspeople from entering their countries.
But shortly after Djokovic was thrown out of Australia the French announced a dramatic u-turn, with sports minister Roxana Maracineau posting on Twitter on Sunday night that a new “vaccine pass” initially limited to residents would apply to “foreign professionals”.
France host Italy and Ireland in the Six Nations next month, while England travel to Paris for the final game in March, the same month Chelsea travel to Lille for the second leg of their Champions League Round of 16 tie. If the ban is still in force this would stop any non-vaccinated players from competing.
Christophe Castaner, head of French president Emmanuel Macron’s ruling LREM party group in the country’s National Assembly, said Djokovic defending his title at Roland Garros unvaccinated was “out of the question”.
He added: “He can’t come if he doesn’t respect a rule that applies to spectators, ball boys and girls and people running boutiques at the French Open. In what world would we be living if, just because you are a star, you can break the rules?”
The UK Government position remained unchanged on Monday but the Daily Telegraph has been told that did not mean Djokovic’s Wimbledon title defence was assured.
The All England Club was said to be prepared to go further than the law required when it came to its own Covid rules – as it did last year.
A total ban on unvaccinated players in the absence of Government edict would seem unlikely but Djokovic, who arrived back home in Serbia on Monday, could yet be subject to severe restrictions during the tournament.