Novak Djokovic has arrived in Australia, where he has begun his preparation for the first Grand Slam of the year. In Melbourne, he will compete for a 10th major crown in the Antipodes, while erasing the painful memory of last year. A psychodrama that left a deep impression on him, even if he swears he has “no resentment”.
This time, there was no special welcoming committee. He had nothing to fear. Novak Djokovic landed on Australian soil. He passed through customs without a hitch and can now think of nothing else but tennis. One year after the psychodrama that marked the beginning of the season and made him the most ubiquitous absentee in the history of the Australian Open, the Serb only dreams of a double return to normality.
For the first, it’s done. He is now like any other citizen from abroad, free to move around. Now there’s the other routine in the Antipodes, which consists of making him the great triumph of the first Grand Slam of the year. A nine-time winner in Melbourne, Djokovic will have to fight hard for a tenth title, but at least he can give it 100%. This is his first win. After all, it wasn’t a foregone conclusion since, not content with being kicked out of the country last January, his deportation was accompanied by a three-year ban, which was lifted with the change of government in the spring of 2022.
Before turning the page for good and thinking only of sport, the champion with 21 major titles exchanged with several representatives of the Australian press in Adelaide, in order to settle accounts. He will remember it as a unique and unenviable episode. “It’s one of those things that sticks with you, that stays with you for, I suppose, the rest of your life. You can’t forget that,” he said after his training session on Thursday. “Like I said, I’ve never experienced anything like it before, and I hope I never have to face it again,” he added.
WHAT HAPPENED DOESN’T ERASE WHAT I’VE EXPERIENCED IN MELBOURNE AND AUSTRALIA IN MY ENTIRE CAREER
Novak Djokovic has never given himself up in detail about this affair and he did not open up any more this time. “Obviously,” he simply recalled, “what happened twelve months ago was not easy for me, for my family, my team and anyone close to me. It was very disappointing to have to leave the country like that”. But he also assured the local media that he had “no resentment” towards Australia.
Was the reciprocal true? How would the population, generally reluctant a year ago to see a non-vaccinated against Covid-19 allowed to return to the territory while the authorities were asking great sacrifices from their inhabitants, welcome the return of the former banished? So far, so good, according to the “Djoker”: “I’ve only been here for two days but everyone has been very pleasant, extremely nice to me. I’ve always felt very good in Australia, I’ve always played my best tennis and I’ve had a lot of support here, so I’m hoping to have another great summer.”
He has too many fond memories of his past conquests on Rod Laver Arena to let the 2022 episode tarnish everything else. “What happened doesn’t erase what I experienced in Melbourne and Australia in my entire career,” he said. So Djokovic returns without perfume or desire for revenge, and not to erase the past but to “move forward”. The best way to do that, for him, will be to win. As always. It is still what he knows how to do best. Especially in Melbourne, where the last person to stop him, apart from the local authorities, is called Hyeon Chung. It was in 2018, in the round of 16.
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