Novak Djokovic's name in BNP Paribas Open draw; status still uncertain for Indian Wells

The dance continues. All eyes were on Tuesday's unveiling of the men's draw at the BNP Paribas Open to see if Novak Djokovic, now ranked No. 2 in the world, would pop up in the tournament bracket.

Sure enough, when the draw ceremony started by listing the top four seeds, Djokovic's name was there as the No. 2 seed, continuing an interesting saga that technically keeps the door open to Djokovic playing in Indian Wells, though it's still unlikely.

During the ceremony to create the field which is held outside Stadium 1 in front of an interested crowd, instead of announcing the top four seeds as they normally would, the draw-makers put No. 1 Daniil Medvedev and No. 2 Novak Djokovic in the bracket without saying their names. They then started announcing the draw with the next two players who were No. 3 Alexander Zverev and No. 4 Rafael Nadal.

They went on to call the name of every player in the field with the exception of Medvedev and Djokovic.

Novak Djokovic's name is displayed during the draw for the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, Calif., March 8, 2022.
Novak Djokovic's name is displayed during the draw for the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, Calif., March 8, 2022.

Famously unvaccinated, the question was always about how Djokovic would get into the United States, as foreigners who have not received the COVID-19 vaccine are not currently allowed to enter the United States. Players do not need to be vaccinated to play in the BNP Paribas Open, but they do need to be to fly into the United States.

It was not immediately clear on Tuesday how Djokovic would work around that mandate if he were to play.

The BNP Paribas Open released a statement on Djokovic's status.

"Novak Djokovic is on the tournament entry list, and therefore is placed into the draw today," the tournament stated. "We are currently in communication with his team; however, it has not been determined if he will participate in the event by getting CDC approval to enter the country. We will provide updates in the future as we learn more."

Novak Djokovic returns to Bjorn Fratangelo in the first set of their match at the BNP Paribas Open, Indian Wells, Calif., March 9, 2019.
Novak Djokovic returns to Bjorn Fratangelo in the first set of their match at the BNP Paribas Open, Indian Wells, Calif., March 9, 2019.

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His first match would be Saturday or Sunday so there is still time for him to arrive in the desert, but if he does wind up withdrawing, it would have a ripple effect throughout the tournament draw. If Djokovic were to play, his first match would be against David Goffin or Jordan Thompson.

When the initial field list was revealed in February, Djokovic's name was on it, which meant he could play in the tournament if the U.S. softened its stance on foreign travel. Djokovic indicated that he wanted to play in both Indian Wells and the following tournament in Miami, but was willing to miss them to remain unvaccinated. He was holding out hope, though.

In late February, Djokovic was asked by a reporter in Dubai if he had plans to play at Indian Wells, and Djokovic replied that he was waiting to see if the U.S. may change those travel restrictions, which would allow him to fly into the country.

“As of today, … I can’t go — can’t enter United States,” Djokovic said at the time. “As of today, I’m not able to play. But let’s see what happens. I mean, maybe things change in the next few weeks.”

Djokovic, who has won this event five times — 2008, 2011, 2014, 2015, 2016 — did not play here in October 2021.

Djokovic traveled to Melbourne in January to defend his Australian Open title. But after a public clash with the country’s health officials, he was eventually expelled from the country and flew home to Serbia.

Djokovic played in Dubai last month, where he defeated Lorenzo Musetti and Karen Khachanov before falling to qualifier Jiri Vesely in the quarterfinals. He has not played since.

Shad Powers is a columnist for The Desert Sun. Reach him at shad.powers@desertsun.com.

This article originally appeared on Palm Springs Desert Sun: BNP Paribas Open: Novak Djokovic part of Indian Wells draw; status still uncertain