Novak Djokovic has received a warm welcome on his first return to Melbourne since being detained and banned from entering Australia due to his vaccination status.
Tennis star He was deported this time last year. Because he did not receive his covid jobs.
It meant he could not compete in the Australian Open, a tournament he has won nine times, and faced a three-year ban to prevent him from returning.
But the controversial decision was reversed in November.Paving the way for 21-time Grand Slam singles champion To make a dramatic comeback in the new year.
He plans to compete in the first major tennis event of 2023 starting on Monday, and played an exhibition match against rookie Nick Kyrgios in Melbourne on Friday.
“It feels great to be back in Australia, to be back in Melbourne,” the Serbian said of his return to Rod Laver Arena.
“This is the court and stadium where I made the best memories of my professional tennis career.
“The first time I won a Grand Slam in 2008, it was here.
“And 15 years later I’m here again, and I’m competing at a high level.
“I should be very grateful for this opportunity to be here, so thank you guys for giving me such a warm welcome tonight.”
Djokovic was visibly emotional as he walked off court in front of a sellout crowd of 15,000.
He admitted he was unsure how he would be received, with his deportation dividing opinion in a country that imposed some of the world’s strictest border restrictions during the pandemic.
The 35-year-old doesn’t have his COVID job yet, but the rules have been relaxed, so he doesn’t need them.
Friday’s exhibition match against Kyrgios, Australia’s top-ranked player, was more a chance for fun and games than any serious competition before the Grand Slam start date.
Both played in front of the crowd and showed no sign of being bothered by recent injuries.
The pair could meet again as soon as the quarter-final stage of the Open opens, and Kyrgios will want to avenge his loss to Djokovic in the Wimbledon final last summer.
In the first round in Melbourne, Kyrgios will face Roman Cefalin, while Djokovic will face Roberto Corbelis-Bena.
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