Event organizer

Organizer says Novak Djokovic cleared to play Italian Open

ROME — Five-time champion Novak Djokovic can come to Rome and play at the Italian Open next month even though he is still not vaccinated against the coronavirus, the president of the Italian Tennis Federation said on Wednesday.

“The rules regarding player participation are established by the government and the ATP,” federation president Angelo Binaghi said when presenting the May 8-15 tournament.

Binaghi said he had discussed the issue with Valentina Vezzali, the Italian government’s 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’s tested positive for COVID-19 at least twice, with his most recent case occurring in December.

Djokovic was unable to defend his Australian Open title in January after being kicked out of the country for not being vaccinated. He also had to skip tournaments in Indian Wells, California and Miami as 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 against Alejandro Davidovich Fokina. The 20-time Grand Slam champion is playing on home soil at the Serbia Open this week.

Djokovic lost last year’s Rome final to Rafael Nadal, who is recovering from a rib injury.

After two years of reduced capacity amid the pandemic, full crowds will be allowed at Foro Italico for the combined men’s and women’s event.

Organizers said they would choose a project by July from among 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 from 2023, which would mean stretching the event over several days.

“[ATP president Andrea] Gaudenzi is almost at the finish line. He got the approval of all the stakeholders. The only thing missing is a question regarding TV rights,” Binaghi said, adding that he hopes an announcement on the upgrade can be made at this year’s tournament.

The upgrade plan could also involve the Madrid Open.