Novak Djokovic to play in first Tel Aviv Open since 1996

The Serbian star is set to come to Israel at the end of September


BELGRADE, SERBIA - JULY 11: Novak Djokovic celebrates with the Wimbledon trophy during the welcoming ceremony in front of Belgrade City Hall on July 11, 2022 in Belgrade, Serbia. (Photo by Srdjan Stevanovic/Getty Images)

Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic is set to play in Israel in September.

The world No. 6 will compete in the Tel Aviv ATP 250 tournament, just weeks after withdrawing from the US Open due to the legal requirement that non-US residents be vaccinated against Covid-19 before entering the country.

The mandate, which has been maintained since November 2021, ruled Djokovic out from the competition given the 35-year-old's decision to not receive the Coronavirus vaccine.

The sporting legend, who has not played in a major tournament since winning Wimbledon in July, announced last Thursday that he would not be competing in the Flushing Meadows competition as he was "sadly" not able to travel to New York.

He is set to face off 2020 US Open champion Dominic Thiem and world No 16 Diego Schwartzman at the first Tel Aviv Open since 1996.

The tournament, previously played from 1978 to 1981 and 1983 to 1996, had initially been set to resume in 2014, but was cancelled due to security concerns relating to the ongoing Gaza-Israel conflict.

In January, the Serbian pro was deported from Australia where he had been due to play in the Australian Open Grand Slam after border forces rejected his grounds for medical exemption from the Covid vaccine.  

In the aftermath of the deportation, he told the BBC that "The principles of decision making on my body are more important than any title or anything else."

Djokovic, who visited Israel in 2006 to receive treatment from physiotherapist Rafi Virshuvski, is also set to play two team fixtures ahead of his Tel Aviv commitments.

He will represent Serbia in the Davis Cup Finals Group Stage between September 13 and 18, before playing the Laver Cup in London from September 23 to 25.

At the Ryder Cup-style competition Djokovic will play in Team Europe alongside his three longtime rivals Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, and Andy Murray, for the first time.

He will play in the Tel Aviv tournament the following day on 26 September. The competition will conclude on 2 October.

The Tel Aviv 250 will be the Serbian’s first opportunity to gain Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) ranking points since June’s French Open after Wimbledon was revoked of points following its ban on Russian and Belarusian players.

Tamir Kfir, the Israeli Orthopedics expert who developed special insoles for Djokovic told Israeli outlet Ynet back in 2011 that the Serbian player “likes us [Israelis] very much and thinks we are similar peoples. In the political context, with all the wars and problems, and also as far as the warmth of the people.”

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