Tennis fans gave Novak Djokovic a raucous welcome during his first match in Australia in almost two years when he made a rare doubles appearance at the Adelaide International on Monday. Playing with Canada’s Vasek Pospisil, they lost to doubles specialists Tomislav Brkic and Gonzalo Escobar 4-6, 6-3, 10/5 but enjoyed overwhelming crowd support along the way.
The Serbian superstar was deported from the country before the 2022 Australian Open for not being vaccinated for Covid and was subsequently barred from re-entering for three years. But the ban was lifted in November and he will be attempting to win a 10th Australian Open title later this month. The match was played on a packed outside court, with the spectators who managed to get in firmly behind Djokovic. He walked out to loud cheers and fans chanting “Novak, Novak”. While there were plenty of Serbian flags courtside, it became obvious that everyone was barracking for the 35-year-old, who stayed behind to sign autographs and pose for selfies after the match. Djokovic will now focus on his first singles of the year, against Frenchman Constant Lestienne.
Meanwhile, Australian qualifier Alexei Popyrin stunned second seed Felix Auger-Aliassime in the first round of the season-opening Adelaide International on Monday. On a day of upsets, world number 11 Holger Rune also crashed out, as did women’s third seed Daria Kasatkina. Canada’s Auger-Aliassime was in top form towards the end of 2022, winning three tournaments in October and November before leading Canada to Davis Cup glory when they beat Australia in the final. He rose to number six in the world and said before the tournament he wanted to ride the wave of momentum into the 2023 season. But he came unstuck against Popyrin, who dropped out of the top 100 last year, slumping 6-4, 7-6 (7/5).
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