Djokovic hoping for positive reception ahead of Australian Open return

By Sports Desk December 29, 2022

Novak Djokovic is hoping for a positive crowd reception at the upcoming Australian Open after his deportation prior to the 2022 tournament.

Djokovic is a nine-time Australian Open winner and will be looking to etch his name on the trophy once again in the first grand slam of 2023.

The Serbian was banned from playing at the most recent edition after he was deported due to his refusal to be vaccinated against COVID-19, despite being initially granted a medical exemption.

As a result, Djokovic missed out on the opportunity to lift a record-extending 10th title, as long-time rival Rafael Nadal won the tournament in his absence.

There had been concerns over Djokovic's ability to play in Melbourne this time around, but a change in border entry rules means travellers are no longer required to provide evidence of their vaccination status.

The incident earlier in 2022 did not go down well with some sections of the Australian public, but Djokovic is hoping to receive a warm reception when he takes to the court in Adelaide and then Melbourne.

"I'm hoping everything is going to be positive," Djokovic said at a press conference. "Obviously it's not something I can predict.

"I'll do my best to play good tennis and bring good feelings and emotions to the crowd. This is what we do as professional athletes, we are also entertainers in a way. We try to make people feel good, have fun and go home and have good memories.

"Hopefully that's going to happen with me. I don't know how many matches I'll play but I'm hoping I can go all the way."

As well as the Australian Open, Djokovic's vaccination status also prevented him from competing at Flushing Meadows, and the memories of how he was treated still linger in Djokovic's mind.

The world number five explained: "Obviously what happened 12 months ago was not easy for me, for my family, team, anybody who is close to me. It's obviously disappointing to leave the country like that.

"You can't forget those events. It's one of these things that stays with you for I guess the rest of your life.

"It's something that I've never experienced before and hopefully never again. But it is a valuable life experience for me and something that as I said will stay there but I have to move on. Coming back to Australia speaks [to] how I feel about this country, how I feel about playing here."

Djokovic is drawing on his impressive record in Australia, as he prepares for the grand slam by taking part in the Adelaide International.

"It's great to be back in Australia," he added.

"It's a country where I've had tremendous success in my career, particularly in Melbourne. It's by far my most successful grand slam.

"The good memories and history I have on Australian soil gives me a lot of positive emotions and belief I can do it again and go far.

"I always have faith in myself and belief I can win every tournament I play in, with the career I've had I deserve to have that kind of mental approach."

Djokovic also confirmed he had split from physio Uli Badio after over five years of working together.

The 35-year-old will instead be using the services of Claudio Zimaglia, who most recently worked with Brandon Nakashima.

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