Tennis Now

Djokovic Will Be Able to Defend Roland Garros

France has eased its coronavirus restrictions and that is good news for Novak Djokovic.

Novak Djokovic has the green light to return to Roland Garros' red clay.

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Reigning Roland Garros champion Djokovic will be permitted to defend his crown in May after the French government announced it will end mandatory masking indoors and COVID-19 vaccination pass requirements on March 14th.

That ruling means the unvaccinated Djokovic, who was booted from Australia and unable to defend his Melbourne crown, can play the clay-court major starting May 22nd and the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters set for April 10-17th provided governmental protocol stands.

French Prime Minister Jean Castrex announced vaccine passports will no longer be required to enter venues or arenas as of March 14th.

"The situation is improving thanks to our collective efforts," said French Prime Minister Jean Castex in comments published by L'Equipe. "The conditions are in place for a new phase of easing the measures. As of Monday, March 14, we will suspend the application of the vaccination pass wherever it applies. Second measure on the same date, end of the mandatory wearing of masks, except in public passenger transport."

That ruling means the second-ranked Serbian, who is currently unable to enter the U.S. to play Indian Wells or Miami, can look forward to red clay revival and a shot to renew his Grand Slam chase of rival Rafael Nadal.

Thirteen-time Roland Garros champion Nadal rallied past Daniil Medvedev in the Australian Open final to collect a men's record 21st Grand Slam crown. Should 20-time Grand Slam champion Djokovic defend Paris he would equal Nadal's record.

Prior to his Dubai comeback match last month, Djokovic said he planned to remain unvaccinated and understood his tournament schedule could be diminished.

“I just have to follow the rules,” the 34-year-old Djokovic said. “Whatever tournament that I'm able to play, I'll be trying to get to that country and play the tournament. Obviously I'm not intending to play the full schedule. That wasn't also my intention – as you brought up – and my goal prior to this season or the season before.

"I was trying to aim to play my best at the Grand Slams and some of the 1000 events we have, playing for my country. Those were the biggest motivations that I had in terms of the scheduling.”

Djokovic said the entire debacle in Australia has infused him with even more motivation to compete when he can.

“Right now the situation is obviously different for me. I really can't choose right now," Djokovic said. "It's really about where I can go and play. “Wherever I have an opportunity, I'll be using probably that opportunity and going to play because this is what I do, it's what I love to do still.”

The Batman vs. The Djoker?

Fighting from two sets down for the first time in a Slam final, a determined Djokovic defeated a valiant Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-7(6), 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 capturing his 19th major championship and propelling himself halfway to the calendar Grand Slam at the 2021 Roland Garros.

Djokovic's comeback conquest of Tsitsipas came two days after the Serbian stormed through six straight games dethroning Nadal 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(4), 6-2 in a heart-racing French Open semifinal that escalated into a match for the ages.

"Definitely the best match that I was part of ever in Roland Garros for me," Djokovic said after fighting off rival Nadal in a brilliant and punishing semifinal. "And top three matches that I ever played in my entire career, considering quality of tennis, playing my biggest rival on the court where he has had so much success and has been the dominant force in the last 15- plus years, and the atmosphere which was completely electric. For both players, a lot of support. Just amazing."

In May, the rivals could square off on Court Central again with history riding on the red clay.