Novak Djokovic feelings made clear by Adelaide crowd in first match before Australian Open | Tennis | Sport
Novak Djokovic was given a hero’s welcome by fans as he took to the court in Adelaide for the first time since touching down in Australia since he was deported from the country last year. Djokovic is expected to compete at this month’s Australian Open, which is set to get underway on January 16, after his ban from entering the nation was lifted back in November.
Djokovic was detained shortly upon his arrival in Australia last January before he was released and then detained again due to concerns over his vaccination status. He was eventually forced to return to Serbia after a last-gasp appeal was rejected out of hand, leaving him unable to compete at the first Grand Slam of the new year.
It will be a different story this time around, though, with Djokovic already in Australia as he gears up to play in Melbourne later this month. He played his first match of the new year in Adelaide in the early hours of Monday morning and was given a rousing welcome by the fans in attendance to see him face off against Tomislav Brkic and Gonzalo Escobar alongside doubles partner Vasek Pospisil.
It was initially unclear what sort of reception Djokovic would get, but any fears of booing were quickly alleviated when he was greeted by wild cheers from supporters at the Adelaide International. The result did not go the way that he would have been hoping for, though, as he and Pospisil were ultimately beaten by Brkic and Escobar despite claiming the first set of the match.
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There was no shortage of vocal backing for Djokovic inside the arena, with many Serbian flags lining the stands and the vast majority of fans throwing their support behind the 35-year-old upon his return to competitive tennis in the country. He stayed behind to sign autographs and pose for pictures after his first doubles match since last year’s Laver Cup, where he partnered Matteo Berrettini past Alex de Minaur and Jack Sock.
Djokovic was recently welcomed back with open arms by former Australian Open chief Paul McNamee, who praised the Serbian icon for his outstanding results in 2022 and spoke highly of his approach to the game.
“Good to see Novak Djokovic back on court in Australia,” he tweeted. “After all, he finished 2022 as the best player on the planet, arguably the most complete athlete in the world and, as a person, with a holistic approach and generosity of spirit which is often overlooked. Welcome back Novak.”
It remains to be seen whether Djokovic will be able to win this month’s Australian Open, though, with Rafael Nadal going in as the pre-tournament favourite after clinching the top honours in the absence of his rival last year. McNamee has already insisted that Djokovic will have a good chance of lifting the trophy at the end of the tournament but warned that Nadal will certainly be the man to beat after winning two Grand Slam titles in 2022.
“I think winning 10 has a special ring to it,” said McNamee. “The only other man who’s won 10 [at a Grand Slam event] is Rafa at the French, so I think he’ll be going hard to get a 10th Australian Open, especially after last year.”
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