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Back Down Under, Novak Djokovic bears no ill will over deportation

Sep 12, 2021; Flushing, NY, USA; Novak Djokovic of Serbia speaks to the crowd during the trophy presentation ceremony after his match against Daniil Medvedev of Russia (not pictured) in the men's singles final on day fourteen of the 2021 U.S. Open tennis tournament at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Mandatory Credit: Danielle Parhizkaran-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Danielle Parhizkaran-USA TODAY Sports

Novak Djokovic is back in Australia and the 21-time Grand Slam champion maintains that he harbors no bitterness or ill will over last January’s deportation.

The unvaccinated Djokovic had his visa canceled due to his COVID-19 status and he lost an appeal just before the start of the Australian Open.

But the country waived his three-year travel ban in November to open the door for his return and the nine-time Australian Open champion is doing his best to move on from the messy ordeal.

“What happened 12 months ago was not easy to digest for some time but at the same time I had to move on,” Djokovic said Thursday during his first press conference since returning to the country on Tuesday. “Those circumstances will not replace what I have lived in Melbourne and in Australia throughout my entire career.

“So I come with positive emotions and I really look forward to playing there. It’s been my favorite Grand Slam, the results prove that.”

The Australian Open begins Jan. 15 and the fifth-ranked Djokovic is one Grand Slam title shy of matching Rafael Nadal’s record, and he’s looking to make a deep run at the mark at Melbourne Park. He won the event three straight years before not getting the chance to defend the crown last year.

First, the 35-year-old will play in the Adelaide International, one of the Aussie Open tune-up events. That tournament begins Sunday, the first on-court step in helping the Serbian move on.

“You can’t forget those events, it’s one of those things that stick with you,” Djokovic said of the deportation situation. “It stays with you for the rest of your life. It’s something I’ve never experienced before and hopefully never again, but it is a valuable life experience for me.

“But I have to move on and coming back to Australia speaks about how I feel about this country and how I feel about playing here.”

Djokovic said he is ready to be tested in what he termed a strong field in Adelaide. But there is no denying what his quest is in Australia.

“The goal is to peak in Melbourne. That’s where I want to play my best,” Djokovic said. “I guess at this stage of my career, with all the achievements, every big tournament win is possibility to make more history. Of course, that’s very humbling for me.

“It’s also a big challenge, but it’s a huge motivation. I don’t lack inspiration and motivation to play my best.”

–Field Level Media