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Serbia's Novak Djokovic has applied for special permission to enter the United States in order to play in the Indian Wells and Miami Open, his brother Djordje revealed, despite an existing requirement for foreign air travelers entering the country to have taken a COVID vaccine. According to Reuters, the existing vaccine mandate is not expected to be lifted before both tournaments begin in March.

Djokovic, 35, has become arguably the most prominent athlete in the world to not take a COVID vaccine, sticking by his decision despite being deported from Australia before the 2022 Australian Open due to his vaccination status. Djokovic made his triumphant return to the Australian Open this year after the country's strict vaccine mandates were discarded, winning the tournament for his 22nd Grand Slam title.

"Novak has to obtain special permission as the U.S. is still denying entry to non-vaccinated persons, which is simply unbelievable as the whole world is open and sports events feature vaccinated and non-vaccinated athletes alike," Djordje Djokovic told Serbian news agency Tanjug. "Novak has submitted all the required documentation and a request, and the directors of the Indian Wells and Miami tournaments have publicly said Novak is needed at those tournaments and that they want him to come. There are only a few days to go before a decision is made and what remains for us to do is hope for a positive outcome."

Presently, existing vaccine mandates for foreign air travelers to the U.S. are expected to be lifted in mid-April. But in Djokovic's case, there has been hope that a resolution can be worked out, a sentiment that has been expressed all the way up to Indian Wells tournament director Tommy Haas.

"It would be nice to see if we could maybe lift those a little earlier and have him come to play Indian Wells and Miami," Haas recently told reporters. "I think he wants to play, so we should give him the chance. Hopefully we can have him there.

"I mean, it would be a disgrace in my eyes if he wasn't coming to these events, or not allowed to come."