The Serbian is set for a spell on the sidelines after being denied entry to the US but may well have been handed a lifeline by a tournament he won as a teenager
Novak Djokovic has been invited to participate in a tournament as an alternative to missing out on events in America.
The Serbian withdrew from the first Masters 1000 event of the year in Indian Wells as he is unable to enter the States due to their long standing Covid-19 vaccine mandate. With a withdrawal from the Miami Open likely to follow, it appears he will next play on clay at the Monte-Carlo Masters, which starts on April 9.
Therefore, it means the world no.1 faces over a month without playing a match, unless he accepts an invitation to play in a challenger event. The Sanremo Tennis Cup is a tournament held in the second tier of professional tennis and played on clay, and this year’s edition will be played from March 27 to April 2.
The 35-year-old won the event as a 17-year-old back in 2005 and, in order to keep his competitive juices flowing, the tournament used their Instagram account to extend an invitation to him. “@djokernole we have an invitation for you, come to the #SanremoTennisCup!” they said enthusiastically.
“We look forward to seeing you on March 26 for the tournament that you won 18 years ago and for the first time will be a #ATPChallenger 125. We still have your trophy, we are waiting to hand it over to you with the hope of seeing you play again on our courts. We reserve the wild card for you, we are confident.”
To gather momentum for a potential appearance, the tournament began the hashtag “#NoleComeToSanremo.” However, their efforts are likely to be in vain as an ATP rule states Djokovic would be unable to play even if he accepted the Sanremo Cup’s wildcard.
“Players positioned 1-10 in the ATP Singles Rankings twenty-one (21) days prior to the first Monday of the ATP Challenger Tour tournament are prohibited from entering, accepting a wild card and/or competing in an ATP Challenger Tour tournament,” the rule reads. Given the Serb’s status as the top ranked player in the sport, the rules forbid him dropping down to the second tier of the sport.
A challenger event the Serbian won in 2005 have invited him to play in the event later this month (
However, the tennis legend’s status as the number one player is under threat, with teenage sensation Carlos Alcaraz able to reclaim the top position if he wins the Indian Wells title. Alcaraz fired a warning to the current top man in tennis, claiming it was his goal to win and return to No 1.
“I’m [feeling] really good right now,” the current world No 2 said ahead of his Indian Wells campaign – his first event since getting injured in Rio. “Today was the first practice that I practised with some players, [played] some points. I feel great. I took some days off and it was really good for me. Right now I’m ready.
“It’s a really good goal for me. Of course playing a Masters 1000 is always tough and I really want to have a good result here. I love this tournament as well. For me, winning the tournament and being No. 1 again is a really good goal and I really want to go for it.”
The Spaniard won his first match of the event against Thanasi Kokkinakis and will take on Tallon Griekspoor for a spot in the last 16 in the early hours of tomorrow morning.