Novak Djokovic says there are no hard feelings on his return to Australia, but can’t guarantee he will ever completely move past the saga that torpedoed his 2022 Australian Open hopes and thrust him into the centre of a media frenzy.
Djokovic was deported from Australia almost 12 months ago after arriving unvaccinated against Covid at a time when the country was still subject to strict biosecurity regulations. Such regulations have now been lifted and in November the Australian government overturned the three-year ban that came with Djokovic’s deportation and granted him a visa to return for the summer of tennis.
The world men’s No 5 touched down in Australia this week before the Adelaide International, where he will limber up for his return to Melbourne Park, and fronted the media for the first time on Thursday afternoon. Djokovic said he was ready to rekindle his love affair with the country on his quest for a 10th Australian Open title and had so far been welcomed with open arms despite his messy exit last time.
“It’s great to be back in Australia,” he said. “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. I’m hoping that everything is going to be positive. Obviously [fans’ reactions] is not something that I can predict. I’ll do my best to play good tennis and bring good emotions and good feelings to the crowd.”
Djokovic said the fact he had returned to Australia showed he held no grudges but admitted while he could forgive, it would be hard to ever forget his deportation. “Obviously what happened 12 months ago was not easy for me, for my family, team, anybody who is close to me,” he said. “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.”
Serbia failed to qualify for the United Cup, the new Australian-based mixed team tournament that kicks off the 2023 ATP and WTA tours, but Djokovic said his preference had been to return via Adelaide anyway.