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After Australia drama, Djokovic starts season in Dubai


Agency Report

Novak Djokovic’s season, derailed in January when he was deported from Australia, finally starts on Monday in Dubai with the world number one insisting players in the locker room “have been positive and welcoming” on his return.

Djokovic missed the chance to win a 10th Australian Open, and 21st Grand Slam, due to the cancellation of his visa in Melbourne and eventual deportation as a result of not being vaccinated.

He returns to the tour this week in the Emirates, where he will be competing for the first time since the Davis Cup Finals in Madrid last December.

Ahead of his opening round against Italian wildcard Lorenzo Musetti, Djokovic spoke to reporters on Sunday night about how it feels to be back on the tennis circuit, and whether there has been any negative reaction from his peers.

“So far here most of the players that I’ve seen have been positive and welcoming. It’s nice to see obviously. I can’t say that was the case in Australia. It was a little bit strange. But here it’s well so far,” the 34-year-old Serb said.

Rafael Nadal, who in Djokovic’s absence won the Australian Open, offered long-distance support.

“Vaccinated or unvaccinated, let Novak play again,” Nadal said at a press conference ahead of the Mexican Open, in Acapulco, where he and world number two Daniil Medvedev are playing.

Victory in Melbourne was Nadal’s 21st at a major, moving him one clear of Djokovic and Roger Federer on the all-time list. Nadal said the Serb’s absence was distorting the records.