The 21-time Grand Slam winner is back following his deportation drama in January
Novak Djokovic has admitted he “cannot forget” his deportation from Australia 12 months ago, but is nonetheless pleased to be back in a country where he has enjoyed record Grand Slam success.
Djokovic returned to Australia this week after a visa ban imposed upon his deportation in January was overturned by the government.
The 35-year-old will play the Adelaide International tournament which gets underway this weekend, before the Australian Open begins in Melbourne later in January.
“It’s good to be back in Australia. Obviously, what happened 12 months ago was not easy for me, for my family, for my team, for anybody who’s close to me,” Djokovic told the media on Thursday, speaking publicly for the first time since his return.
“It’s obviously disappointing to leave the country like that, but I was really hoping that I’m going to have my permission back to play here because it’s a country where I’ve had tremendous success in my career.”
Djokovic has won nine of his Grand Slam titles in Melbourne – making him the most successful men’s player ever at the tournament.
“I always felt great in Australia, played my best tennis and received a lot of support. Hopefully I can have another great summer,” added the Serb.
“You can’t forget those events. It’s one of those things that stays with you, I guess, for the rest of your life.
“It’s something I’ve never experienced before and hopefully never again. But it is a valuable life experience for me, but I have to move on.”
When asked what kind of reception he expected from the Australian crowd, Djokovic hoped his positivity would be reciprocated.
“I’m hoping that everything is going to be positive. Obviously, it’s not something that I can predict. I’ll do my best to play good tennis and bring good feelings and good emotions to the crowd.
“What happened 12 months ago was not easy to digest, but I had to move on. That event will not replace what I have lived in Australia and Melbourne throughout my career.
“So I come here with really positive emotions and I look forward to playing here. It’s been my favorite Slam.”
Djokovic lines up at the ATP 250 event in Adelaide alongside some big names in the men’s game who will be aiming to use the tournament as a strong tune-up for Melbourne.
Djokovic pointed to the likes of Russian pair Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev as players who are set to challenge.
Djokovic was permitted to return to Australia after the government overturned his three-year visa ban in November.
He had been deported in January ahead of the 2022 Australian Open in a row over his Covid vaccine status, despite being granted a medical exemption to compete.
Djokovic was detained upon his arrival and held at an immigration facility, before eventually losing a court battle following intervention from Australian government minister Alex Hawke.
Australian officials claimed Djokovic’s presence could incite “anti-vaccine” sentiment among the population, given his decision not to be vaccinated against the virus.
Australia has since dropped its vaccine requirements for foreign visitors to the country.
The Australian Open gets underway at Melbourne Park on Monday January 16, and runs until Sunday January 29.
Rafael Nadal is the defending men’s champion after defeating Russia’s Medvedev in a five-set epic in their final back in January.
December 29, 2022 at 02:59PM