ROME — Five-time champion Novak Djokovic can come to Rome and play at the Italian Open next month even if he is still not vaccinated against the coronavirus, the president of the Italian Tennis Federation said.
“The rules regarding players’ participation are established by the government and the ATP,” federation president Angelo Binaghi said at the presentation for the May 8-15 tournament.
Binaghi indicated that he had discussed the issue with Valentina Vezzali, the Italian government’s cabinet undersecretary in charge of sports, who was seated next to him.
Current entry rules for Italy require either proof of vaccination against COVID-19, proof of recovery from infection or a negative test. Djokovic says he has tested positive at least twice for COVID-19, with his last case coming in December.
Djokovic couldn’t defend his Australian Open title in January after he was deported from the country for not being vaccinated. He also had to skip tournaments in Indian Wells, California, and Miami because he couldn’t travel to the United States for the same reason.
Djokovic recently returned to action at the Monte Carlo Masters, where he lost his opening match to Alejandro Davidovich Fokina. The 20-time Grand Slam champion is playing at home in the Serbia Open this week.
Djokovic lost last year’s Rome final to Rafael Nadal, who is working his way back from a rib injury.
After two years of reduced capacity amid the pandemic, full crowds will be allowed at the Foro Italico for the combined men’s and women’s event.
Organizers said they will choose a project by July from seven finalists to build a retractable roof over the main court, Campo Centrale. The Italian federation is also awaiting approval from the ATP tour for a tournament upgrade starting in 2023, which would mean stretching the event over more days.
“(ATP president Andrea) Gaudenzi is nearly at the finish line. He’s obtained approval from all of the stakeholders. The only thing missing is a question pertaining to TV rights,” Binaghi said, adding that he hopes an announcement on the upgrade can be made during this year’s tournament.
The upgrade plan could also involve the Madrid Open.