Novak Djokovic, on Thursday declared that being deported from Australia was an experience he will never forget, but it was time to move on, as he enjoyed a warm welcome in Adelaide. The Serbian star, who will bid for a men’s record-equalling 22nd Grand Slam crown at the Australian Open next month, returned to the country on Tuesday, almost a year after being kicked out after a legal battle for refusing to be vaccinated against the now confirmed debacle, Covid-19.
He was banned from returning for three years, but Australia has since lifted its requirement for visitors to show proof of vaccination status and a new government in Canberra confirmed last month that the Serb was no longer barred. “It’s one of those things that sticks with you, stays with you for, I guess, the rest of your life,” Djokovic said in his first comments since arriving for the Adelaide International.
“It is a valuable life experience for me and something that 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. I always felt great in Australia…always; you know, played my best tennis, received a lot of support, so hopefully I can have another great summer.”
The 35-year-old was unable to compete in two of the four majors this year, with his vaccination stance meaning he was also forced to sit out the US Open. However, he finished his 2022 campaign with a bang, winning titles in Tel Aviv, Astana and the ATP Finals in Turin, as well as reaching the final of the Paris Masters. He also picked up trophies in Rome and Wimbledon and tallied up a 42-7 win-loss record throughout the season.
Despite being 35, Djokovic said he believed more Grand Slam success was possible and he could fend off the younger generation for some time yet.
“I know what I need to do in order to compete with them, in order to be one of the contenders for the title here and in Melbourne,” he said. “The good memories and good history that I have on Australian soil gives me a lot of positive emotions and belief that I can do it again and I can go far.”