Novak Djokovic ‘relief’ after green light to play at Australian Open


Novak Djokovic beats Stefanos Tsitsipas in Turin – MARCO BERTORELLO/AFP via Getty Images

Novak Djokovic has welcomed the Australian government’s decision to rescind his three-year visa ban, saying “I could not receive better news”.

Tuesday’s update from the Labor government means that Djokovic is now free to pursue his tenth Australian Open title in January, which would also put him level with Rafael Nadal on 22 majors if he were to succeed.

Djokovic also suggested that his upbeat mood had played a part in Wednesday’s dominant victory over Andrey Rublev at the ATP Finals in Turin. “Of course, I was very happy to receive the news yesterday,” he said.

“Yeah, it was a relief obviously knowing what I and people closest to me in my life have been through this year, with what happened in Australia and post-Australia obviously. Did it affect my game today? I would like to believe it did. Why not?”

On the basis of Djokovic’s form in Turin this week, where he has overshadowed all his rivals, he will go into Melbourne with a better-than-evens chance.

Speaking after his 6-4, 6-1 demolition of Rublev – which included what he described as a “flawless” second set – Djokovic explained that he has arrived at the end of this season feeling full of energy.

On top of his controversial deportation from Australia at the start of the year – which left him with that automatic three-year visa ban – he also missed the US Open and all the other big American tournaments because of travel restrictions surrounding his rejection of the Covid vaccine.

“The upside of not playing many tournaments is that you’re going to be fresher than when you’re playing a lot more, which is logical,” said Djokovic.

“To be able to play as well I am playing in the last few months is something I worked hard for, because I had more time to train. I did spend quite a bit of time with my coach and with my team on the court, trying to perfect my game.

“But I can say I learned a lot this year about myself, about the world that I live in, and about some people as well who have behaved in a certain way to me in this whole process.”

 Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic walks in Melbourne Airport before boarding a flight, after the Federal Court upheld a government decision to cancel his visa - REUTERS/Loren Elliott

Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic walks in Melbourne Airport before boarding a flight, after the Federal Court upheld a government decision to cancel his visa – REUTERS/Loren Elliott

Djokovic’s performances in Turin stand in sharp contrast to those of Nadal, who has already lost any chance of reaching the semi-finals. After suffering a 7-6, 6-1 loss to Taylor Fritz on Sunday, Nadal was beaten 6-3, 6-4 by Felix Auger Aliassime on Tuesday.

Afterwards, Nadal said: “I don’t think I forgot how to play tennis. I just need to recover the confidence and the strong mentality to be at the level that I want to be. I don’t know if I am gonna reach that level again but I don’t have any doubt that I am gonna die for it.”

Nadal’s disappointments in Turin confirmed that Carlos Alcaraz – who is 19 – will become the youngest man on record to finish an ATP season as world No1.

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