Taylor Fritz rejects suggestions Indian Wells winner should have asterisk due to Novak Djokovic’s absence

Shahida Jacobs
Taylor Fritz takes a break

Taylor Fritz has brushed off suggestions that the player who wins this year’s Indian Wells Open should have an asterisk next to their name because Novak Djokovic is not allowed to compete.

World No 1 Djokovic is missing the ATP Masters 1000 title in California for a second year in a row due to his unvaccinated status as foreign nationals are not allowed to enter the United States if they have not been inoculated against Covid-19.

The 22-time Grand Slam winner applied for a special exemption to play in both the Indian Wells Open and the Miami Open. However, he was unsuccessful and withdrew from Indian Wells, but remains hopeful that the powers that be will have a change of heart and allow him to compete in Florida with the second leg of the Sunshine Double getting underway on March 20.

However, it does mean the five-time Indian Wells champion won’t feature again this year and some feels it weakens the quality, especially with Rafael Nadal also absent due to injury.

“I see it as kind of the same as last year,” defending champion Fritz said. “No Novak, but at the end of the day no one is going to look back at this tournament 10, 20 years from now and be like, oh well there’s an asterisk there because these people weren’t playing.

“If you win Indian Wells, you win Indian Wells.”

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Eighth seed Felix Auger-Aliassime is another player who doesn’t think the tournament will lack quality due to the absence of the Big Two.

“It’s not gonna change much I think [on Djokovic and Nadal’s absence]. At the end of the day, there is a great field of players in the tournament that’s gonna go on and it’ll be a success,” he said.

The Canadian added: “You know, I think for tennis, you want all the best players in the tournament. I think even me, as a competitor, like if I do win a tournament like this one, I wanna feel like there were the best of the best in the draw. Also, it’s not great for anybody that like Rafa and Novak are missing.”

Fritz will open the defence of his title against fellow American Ben Shelton in the second round while Auger-Aliassime will kick off his campaign against Pedro Martínez.

“Last year winning this tournament, it really couldn’t have happened in a better place,” Fritz said.

“It was such an amazing moment and I have a lot of confidence playing here. It feels like home.”