When the legend of the tennis courts Novak Djokovic steps onto the court in his opening match at the Australian Open, there is a lot of excitement in the air. The Serbian has had a stormy year behind him, the events of which just started in Australia.
A year ago, a strange spectacle was witnessed, when the right of Djokovic, who had already arrived in the country, to play in the Australian Open was twisted until the last moments. In the end, the Serbian was expelled from Australia just a day before the start of the tournament.
The reason behind the expulsion was that Djokovic had not taken the corona vaccination.
He was banned from entering Australia for three years, but the ban has now been lifted. Australia no longer requires corona vaccinations from those entering the country. Djokovic received an Australian visa in November and thus can participate in the tournament starting next week.
The 35-year-old Djokovic admits that the last year, which had even bitter tones, has taken its toll.
– I got into a big storm in all matters related to corona and vaccines. I became a villain and I was in a terrible position as an athlete. I stayed at home for weeks and didn’t really go anywhere. I just hoped the situation would calm down. So it happened, but the events still left their mark, says Djokovic of the Australian of Channel 9 (you switch to another service) in the interview.
– The marks followed me for months. I didn’t know how everything would affect my playing and it wasn’t easy mentally to start over.
The player would have liked to look ahead, but every time he appeared in front of the media, the reporters tormented him with the same questions.
– At every press conference, I got to answer at least one or two questions about Australia and what was happening. Even though I wanted to get ahead already, people reminded me of that, Djokovic states.
“Things got out of hand and I was labeled”
Djokovic has always garnered attention and done things his own way. A year ago, he was caught up in a commotion the likes of which he had never experienced before.
Djokovic faced outright anger when he planned to play in Australia despite reportedly not having a corona vaccination. Many people, tired of Australia’s strict corona restrictions, could not accept someone trying to enter the country through the “bypass lane”.
– I understood why people were frustrated, but the information was distorted in the media. What hurts me the most is that a large part of people still have the wrong idea about the events, Djokovic laments.
– Things got out of hand and I was labeled. Things got so big in the media that I couldn’t fight back anymore and didn’t really even want to.
Djokovic’s corona strains led to the fact that he also missed the US Open last year.
– Naturally, I wanted to continue playing tennis, but at some point I just wanted to get away from all the madness and return home, Djokovic says.
– My affairs were covered in the media for months and not at all positively. All this has tarnished not only myself but also the people around me.
How will the public receive Djokovic?
Now the wind has turned in the other direction. The organizers of the Australian Open have announced that spectators who criticize Djokovic’s participation will be threatened with punishment.
Tournament Director Craig Tiley announced in an interview with the Herald Sun that protests against Djokovic will result in removal from the stands.
– We don’t want these people in the stands. They can stay away or we kick them out, Tiley said.
Tiley asked viewers to respect others.
– I’ve always admired the fact that Melbourne audiences appreciate sports and the skill of athletes better than anywhere else in Australia. I expect the public to honor it even now.
One win away from Rafael Nadal’s record
Djokovic, who won 21 grand slam tournaments in his amazing career, belongs to the all-time legends of tennis. A perfect match in Australia would lift Djokovic’s Spain Rafael Nadal side by side, the all-time top scorer.
Djokovic has won the Australian Open a record nine times. The experienced player is still in the game, as evidenced by his recent number one ranking at the ATP tournament in Adelaide. The USA fell in the final Sebastian Korda.
Djokovic’s return to the Australian Open is attracting huge interest. Already a warm-up match from the Australian Nick Kyrgios was sold out.
Last year, Djokovic’s expulsion from Australia divided opinion. Now he wishes that the past had already been left behind.
At least last week at the Adelaide tournament, it looked like the Australian tennis public was once again appreciating Djokovic. Djokovic thanked the audience for the warm reception he received.
– It was as if I had played in front of the home crowd. It was something I haven’t experienced very many times in my career, Djokovic said happily after the Adelaide tournament.
But what does he expect from the spectators at the Australian Open?
– I can’t know how the audience in Melbourne will receive me, but I hope in a positive way.
The Australian Open starts on Monday. Djokovic’s first match is on Tuesday.