Mark Woodforde recalls story of rejecting Novak Djokovic wildcard spot


Australian tennis great Mark Woodforde has recalled an incredible exchange with a young Novak Djokovic where the Serbian was rejected a spot at the Adelaide International.

The incident occurred in the years prior to Djokovic winning the competition in 2007 when he requested a wildcard entry into the tournament but was denied by Woodforde, who was then the co-tournament director alongside Peter Johnston.

Woodforde, a 16-time grand slam doubles champion, recalled how Djokovic walked into his office alongside his trainer, Dejan Petrovic.

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“I was running the event with Peter Johnston and we were sitting in the office the day before qualifying began and in came Dejan with Novak Djokovic,” he said on Nine’s coverage of the Adelaide International.

“He introduced himself to both Peter Johnston and myself and said, ‘I’m happy to be here in Adelaide and I was hoping that you might give me a wildcard’.

“Peter and I just looked at each other, we’d already given out our wildcards in the main draw. Novak said, ‘Because I’m going to become No.1 in the world one day and I think this would help give me a start’, and we just smiled and said, ‘Unfortunately, we don’t have space’.

“Dejan, who I’ve known for a number of years just said, ‘He really does believe he’s going to be No.1’ and we just had to apologise and say we had to reserve some of the wildcards at the time for the Australians.

“I said, ‘We’ll try to get you into the qualifying at least’, and he said, ‘But I want to be in the main draw because I’m going to be No.1 in the world’.

“Unfortunately, we couldn’t even get him into qualifying that year, but that’s the belief that Novak Djokovic had at a very early age, that he was going to achieve great things.”

The rejection did not stop Djokovic from returning to Adelaide, where he defeated Australia’s Chris Guccione to claim the third of his 130 career titles in January 2007.

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Djokovic is back in Adelaide this year, returning to Australia 12 months after he was infamously deported on the eve of the 2022 Australian Open due to his vaccination status.

The 21-time grand slam champion will kick off his Adelaide International campaign on Tuesday afternoon when he takes on France’s Constant Lestienne as the tournament’s No.1 men’s seed.

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