Passion for the game motivated Djokovic to overcome Australian Open saga

Amir Naqvi, Sports Editor

Love for the game helped the Serbian tennis maestro, Novak Djokovic keep emotions in check following an 11-day ordeal and deportation from Australia last month.

Last month, after more than a one-week drama involving two visa cancellations, two court challenges and five nights in two stints at an immigration detention hotel, the unvaccinated Djokovic was deported on the eve of the Australian Open.

The deportation deprived the world No. 1 of the opportunity to win a record-extending 10th Australian Open and a men’s record 21st Grand Slam title.

“There were lots of emotions when I came back from Australia,” he said during a press conference at the Dubai Tennis Stadium.

“It was strange. I was disappointed, I was sad about the way it all played out and the way I left the country.”

“I started training probably about 10 days after I came back from Australia, as I love the game. I love just hitting the tennis ball, so it wasn’t really difficult to pick up a racquet and go out on a practice court and just play.

“I have lots of passion for the sport and I value every minute that I spend on the practice court because I know there is always something to work on and improve.

I’ve been playing tennis for the last three weeks, basically two and a half, three-weeks. I’ve been enjoying it, enjoying my time on the court in Belgrade, where I spent most of my time,” he added.

The five-time Dubai champion will start his campaign against the tournament wild card on Monday. This will be the Serbian’s second meeting with wild card Musetti.The last time they faced each other was at the French Open in 2021.

Djokovic was last seen in action when he beat Marin Cilic in December last year but could not stop Croatia from eliminating Serbia in the Davis Cup semi-final in Madrid to end his 2021 season.

“I am excited to be back in Dubai. After coming to know that I would be playing in Dubai, obviously I had something to work for. I had a goal. So now that I’m here, I can say that I am as well prepared as I possibly can be and I am excited to, again, be on the tour,” said the Serb, who last lifted the winners’ trophy for a fifth time in 2020.

“Having previous positive experiences on the court and titles obviously connects me to this place even more.”

Djokovic won the first of his three straight titles in 2009, was victorious again in 2013 and was a finalist in 2015.

Djokovic is yet to take the vaccine against COVID-19, but claimed that he is not an anti-vaxxer and that his refusal to be vaccinated stems from uncertainty over how a coronavirus vaccination could affect his playing performance.

The top seed also said he will not be playing the full schedule on the tour and added that he will play in whichever tournaments he can.

“I just have to follow the rules. Whatever tournament that I’m able to play, I’ll be trying to get to that country and play the tournament.

Obviously, I’m not intending to play the full schedule. That wasn’t also my intention — as you brought up — and my goal prior to this season or the season before. I was trying to aim to play my best at the Grand Slams and some of the 1000 events we have, playing for my country. Those were the biggest motivations that I had in terms of the scheduling.”

Djokovic is also locked in a battle for the top spot in ATP rankings with Daniil Medvedev.

He returns to the ATP Tour this week knowing that Daniil Medvedev will become World No. 1 for the first time if the Russian wins the Acapulco title.

“I would be the first one to congratulate Medvedev. He deserves to be number one,” Djokovic said of Russian world number two, Medvedev.

Eventually, it’s going to happen. If it happens this week, I’ll be the first one to congratulate him.”


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