John McEnroe Says It Would Be ‘A Damn Shame’ If Novak Djokovic Isn’t Permitted To Play American Tournaments

John McEnroe says it would be “absurd” and “a damn shame” if Novak Djokovic isn’t allowed to compete in the upcoming tournaments at Indian Wells and Miami — or the U.S. Open later this year.

Djokovic, 35, is currently unable to fly to the U.S. as an unvaccinated foreigner and thus would be ineligible for the “Sunshine Swing” at Indian Wells (starting March 6) and Miami (March 19) next month. As things now stand, he also couldn’t compete in the U.S. Open for a second straight year.

The Serb has applied for an exemption, and is reportedly set to hold a press conference Wednesday in Serbia, perhaps to provide an update on his schedule. He is on the entry list for both Indian Wells and Miami.

“It would be absurd if he couldn’t play Indian Wells or Miami or any other tournament in the U.S.,” McEnroe, the seven-time Grand Slam singles champion and ESPN analyst, said Tuesday on a conference call in response to a question from this reporter.

“It’s absurd they threw him out of Australia last year,” he added. “I have had my vaccines, I respect that he’s chosen not to do it. I would’ve done it, but that’s a whole other issue….He played [the U.S. Open] in 2021 and then wasn’t allowed to play in 2022, someone explain that to me. And now he’s still not permitted to play, I mean it’s absurd.”

Patrick McEnroe, also an ESPN analyst and the former U.S. Davis Cup captain, said he hopes Djokovic is permitted to play the “Sunshine Swing.”

“I hope he does get an exemption,” he said. “I hope he can get into the country to play. I mean, I’m no doctor or no expert but it does seem like we’re past most of the pandemic, knock on wood.

“He’s able to go to any other country to play at this point and my understanding is that the President [Biden] has announced that many of these regulations will be withdrawn I believe in May. Whether or not Novak’s able to gt the exemption before that is up in the air.

“Maybe we’ll get some more information [from Djokovic’s press conference], but certainly for the good of the sport, for tennis, I think everybody would like to see him be able to play whatever tournaments he wants to play.”

Djokovic won his record-tying 22nd Grand Slam title at the Australian Open in January and is now tied with is longtime rival Rafael Nadal. The two will each seek their 23rd major title at Roland Garros in May, providing Nadal is healthy enough to defend his title and seek a 15th French Open crown.

“This is a historic time in our sport obviously, him at Rafa both at 22, it’s pretty interesting, if you ask me. So it would be a damn shame.”

John and Patrick McEnroe Announce Tennis Activities in Tanzania

The McEnroes, along with Insider Expeditions, a leader in global travel excursions, on Tuesday announced a new partnership to bring the sport to Tanzania this December as part of a new goodwill, awareness and sport initiative.

In cooperation and support of the Tanzanian government, McEnroes will be accompanied by as many as 120 tennis aficionados during a special eight-day trip which will include the dedication of a temporary tennis court in the Serengeti.

“My family and I look forward to a very exciting trip to Tanzania, where we will have the chance to introduce tennis to the Maasai youth, probably for the first time,” John McEnroe said. “Thanks to Insider Expeditions for creating this opportunity for us all to learn about this beautiful country while being able to expand the game of tennis to a new audience in a country on the rise in the global business and tourism landscape.”

“To be able to go to on this unique trip with ties to a tennis growth experience for all involved is going to be very special,” Patrick McEnroe added. “We have all heard about the beauty of Tanzania, so being able to make this trip with my wife and those individuals joining us should be quite amazing.”

The journey will include a tennis match between the McEnroe brothers in the midst of the Serengeti.

They also hope to help bring tennis to the people of Africa.

“I plan to enjoy it as well as hopefully educate some people and bring some interest,” John McEnroe said.