Novak Djokovic’s steadfast choice to not get vaccinated against COVID-19 continues to have ripple effects on the tennis world. Most recently, it came at the expense of 23-year-old Barcelona native Pol Martin Tiffon.
Djokovic, who is prevented from entering the United States because he is not vaccinated, waited until Thursday, just before the U.S. Open main draw was announced, to pull out of the tournament. While his withdrawal opened up a spot in the main draw for a “lucky loser,” Tiffon was an unlucky loser, missing out on the $21,000 in participation prize money that he would have earned from playing in the qualifying rounds.
The 104 highest-ranked tennis players in the world receive automatic entry to the U.S. Open main draw, and eight more receive wild cards. Each year, 128 additional players compete in the qualifying tournament for the last 16 spots.
Tiffon, who is ranked No. 242 in the world, traveled to New York City this week even though he missed the cut for the qualifying tournament, in the hopes that Djokovic would withdraw from the Open before qualifiers began on Tuesday. Had that happened, someone from the qualifying tournament would have moved into the main draw, opening up a spot for Tiffon. Because Djokovic waited three more days, holding out hope that he would be allowed to enter the U.S., Tiffon’s hopes—and his wallet—were dashed.
Tiffon has made $25,434 in prize money this year. He won his most recent tournament, M25 Esch/Alzette on the International Tennis Federation entry level tour, and received just $3,600. An appearance in the qualifying tournament alone would have nearly doubled his earnings on the year.
Tiffon would have been an underdog—he has played just five matches in 2022 against top 200 ranked players, and went 1-4—but last month he beat Jiri Lehecka, who was ranked No. 72 in the world at the time. Had Tiffon won his three qualifying matches and reached the main draw, he would have received $80,000—more than his $71,873 in total career earnings to date, along with a life-changing opportunity to play in the U.S. Open.
The total prize money for the U.S. Open qualifying tournament is $6.26 million, an increase of 223% from $1.94 million in 2016. The $21,000 individual payout is significant for the participants, as all but one of this year’s 128 players have earned less than $500,000 playing tennis in 2022.
On Thursday afternoon, Tiffon posted on Instagram: “US Open was a whirlwind. It was a nice and tough experience this week, no luck this time. We shall continue! Bye USA.”