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No. 1 Novak Djokovic now open to compete in U.S. Open

Novak Djokovic of Serbia was hesitant to play in the 2020 U.S. Open before tournament officials announced safety protocols on Wednesday for the August Grand Slam in New York. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI
Novak Djokovic of Serbia was hesitant to play in the 2020 U.S. Open before tournament officials announced safety protocols on Wednesday for the August Grand Slam in New York. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

June 19 (UPI) -- Novak Djokovic once said it would be "impossible" to play in the 2020 U.S. Open based on "extreme" protocols for COVID-19. Now he says he is open to the idea of the New York Grand Slam if restrictions "loosen up."

Djokovic made the comments Thursday during an interview on Eurosport's Tennis Legends podcast. U.S. Open officials held a news conference Wednesday and explained specific safety protocols for the Grand Slam.

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"I'm extremely happy and excited to see that all the tournaments, especially Grand Slams, are organizing their events," Djokovic said.

"I think that a lot of people were skeptical, especially for the U.S. events considering what the U.S. went through as a country during this pandemic. So a lot of people, including myself, were quite skeptical on whether it would happen or not.

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"Let's hope that in the next two months some of those restrictions will loosen up a bit and that we will have a great, great tournament."

Djokovic's initial concerns with the U.S. Open dealt with players not being allowed to travel to Manhattan from the tournament site, having two or three COVID-19 tests per day and accommodations at the airport. He also took issue with not being allowed to bring more than one person with him to the tournament. The U.S. Open had not publicly released protocols before Wednesday.

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The ATP Tour and WTA Tour also announced their resumed season schedules Wednesday. Both tours have been suspended since mid-March and will return in August. The U.S. Open will be from Aug. 31 to Sept. 13 at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

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U.S. Open officials said top tennis stars will make decisions on if they want to play two or three weeks before the tournament.

No. 2 Rafael Nadal has also expressed concerns about his safety at the U.S. Open. Women's world No. 1 Ashleigh Barty and No. 2 Simona Halep and Australian men's tennis player Nick Kyrgios have also been hesitant in their commitments.

American players like Serena Williams and John Isner have been in support of the USTA's decision to move forward with the U.S. Open. Williams made an appearance at the U.S. Open's news conference and said she is "excited" to play in the Grand Slam.

"Hopefully every single player who is participating, chosen by ranking and who deserves their place at the U.S. Open, will have an equal opportunity to travel there and compete as everybody else," Djokovic said.

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"This is very important because this is the foundation of the ATP and the foundation of international tennis."

The Australian Open was the only Grand Slam played this season before professional tennis was suspended. Wimbledon was canceled and the French Open has been postponed to September.

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