Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic spoke out Tuesday on missing two U.S.-based tournaments this month over his refusal to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
The athlete has not been allowed into the country under current travel rules, which require non-U.S. citizens and non-U.S. immigrants to show proof of vaccination before entering.
Djokovic had applied for a waiver, but it was reportedly denied by the Department of Homeland Security. This meant he was a no-show at the recent BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, California, and he is not participating in Miami Open, which started this week in Florida.
Still, Djokovic told CNN in a new interview that he wouldn’t change a thing.
“I have no regrets,” Djokovic said. “I’ve learned through life that regrets only hold you back.”
The rules barring Djokovic from entering the U.S. drew sharp criticism from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R). Earlier this month, he called on President Joe Biden “to put pandemic politics aside” so the player could participate in his state’s event.
Carlos Alcaraz won the Indian Wells tournament Sunday, climbing to the top spot in the men’s tennis ATP rankings.
“I congratulate Alcaraz. He absolutely deserved to come back to number one. It’s a pity that I wasn’t able to play Indian Wells [and] Miami,” Djokovic told CNN.
“But at the same time, it is the conscious decision I made, and I knew that there is always a possibility that I won’t go,” he continued.
Djokovic added that he hopes to be allowed into the country later this year for the U.S. Open, calling the late-summer event “the most important tournament for me on American soil.”
Current travel rules are set to expire in May, when the COVID-19 emergency declaration ends.
This is not the first time that Djokovic has been under the spotlight for refusing to get vaccinated.
He was deported from Australia early last year after losing a court case to let him stay for the Australian Open even though he did not meet the country’s COVID-19 immunization requirement.
Despite these controversies, Djokovic said he remains enthusiastic about the game and “as motivated as ever.”
“Staying true to myself, and my beliefs and my rights, is above everything,” he told CNN. “That’s where I stand.”