Novak Djokovic’s supporters gathered at the US Open in New York on Monday to protest the Serb’s absence from the Grand Slam and demand an end to the vaccination mandate for foreign visitors on US soil.

Djokovic, 35, announced on social media last week that he would not appear at Flushing Meadows and thus would not be able to avenge his loss to Russian world number one Daniil Medvedev in last year’s final.

Although he did not specifically mention his stance on the vaccine, writing that Unfortunately, I will not be able to travel to [New York] this time for the US Open”, it is his decision not to get vaccinated that has caused him to miss out on a second Grand Slam in 2022.

Earlier this year, Djokovic was also deported from Australia and prevented from defending his Australian Open crown back-to-back due to his Covid-19 vaccination status.

With the US Open kicking off on Monday, a group of protesters showed their support for the 21-time Grand Slam champion by holding up banners with messages such as: “End all travel mandates” y “A travel ban for unvaccinated foreigners is discrimination.”

“Has no sense! Support Novak! Why are we still closed? Why is the United States still closed? Where is Novak? one protester yelled.

Also on Monday, at a news conference, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre engaged in a heated exchange with Globe Live Media’ Peter Doocy on the matter.

Doocy asked Jean-Pierre why unvaccinated immigrants can enter the US and stay, but Djokovic is still unable to play in the US due to his immunization status.

“It is not so simple,” Jean-Pierre insisted. “It’s not just that people are crossing the border. We have a plan in place.

“This is not like turning on the lights. This will require a process. We’re fixing a broken system that was actually left by the last administration.” She claimed.

Jean-Pierre then said that he was not allowed “discuss individual visa cases for privacy reasons”, with the United States government as well “do not comment on the medical information of individual travelers.”

“They are two different things”, Jean-Pierre also responded, when Doocy said that “Thousands of people are coming in” the United States every day.

“Some of them are delivered, some of them, tens of thousands a week are not,” he added, prompting Jean-Pierre to list the measures the Biden administration has allegedly put in place to try to curb illegal immigration.

“And as far as the tennis star is concerned, that’s totally different.” Jean-Pierre affirmed. «That is a different process. That’s the US Open he’s a part of. And there is CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention]federal guidelines you must follow.

Without Djokovic present, the US Open heads into its second round on Wednesday.

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