Serbian star admits fallout from his Australian visa and vaccine queue left him reeling
World number one Novak Djokovic has spoken about the fallout he experienced following his controversial deportation from Australia earlier this year after the Serbian star flouted the country’s Covid-19 restrictions ahead of the first Grand Slam event of 2022, the Australian Open.
After a protracted legal dispute, including detention by Australian Border Force officials and an enforced stay in Melbourne processing facilities, Djokovic was finally expelled from the country following a scandal that reached the highest level of government. Australian.
Djokovic, unvaccinated against Covid-19, has been forced to withdraw from various events, including two in the United States, since then and is currently playing in his fourth tournament of the year at the Madrid Open.
With restrictions now loosening in most major countries, Djokovic appears ready to return to full-time tennis, but speaking to Tennis Channel this week, the 20-time Grand Slam winner admitted that events earlier this year would make him mentally and emotionally affected.
“I was at first after I got back from Australia, I have to admit maybe I was underestimating the emotional state I was in a little bit. I thought, you know, well, I’m out of Australia. You know, it is what it is. It happened, it happened. I keep going, “he said.
“But then I felt over the next few months that the emotional and mental traces of what was going on there were still there and I felt like, maybe in the last few weeks, I’ve started to get a little bit out of that and go ahead and transform that into fuel and positive energy, you know?
Djokovic’s initial return to the tennis court was boring. He was beaten by the world’s 123rd-ranked player, Jiri Vesely, in a tournament in Dubai in February and also suffered an early exit at the Monte-Carlo Masters last month.
“But it was kind of a situation or circumstance that I never faced before in my life. For many years that I have been on the tour and for the experience that I have in the ecosystem of tennis on and off the court and being involved in the advice as well of players and tennis politics and the press and everything,” the 34-year-old said.
“I consider myself quite experienced with different kinds of things, factors that are part of our, my life and you know, the tennis ecosystem, but still this was something that was completely, you know, unexpected and it took its toll on me.” .
“So I think more mentally, emotionally than physically because I was just trying to figure things out, get back to that state of optimal balance of mind, mind, body and soul and try to approach the next tournament like any other and that was my mindset.
“But then I realized that when I started playing official games, it’s not really easy to end it. You know, I still had to deal with that feeling of being… I don’t know. It’s hard to explain. I have no words. for that in particular, but it’s just that feeling that was holding me back a little bit, particularly in the first two tournaments. In those matches I felt like I wasn’t myself, you know, a little bit more nervous than usual and just in defensive mode , mentally, when I officially start playing points.
Djokovic appeared to steady the ship in his home country of Serbia, reaching the final there before losing to Andrey Rublev, but says the support he received from his compatriots helped him bounce back.
“So it took me a little while to get through that, and I think in Serbia with the support of the crowd and the great energy that I experienced there, it really got me through it.
“So, you know, hopefully from now on I get back to the optimum balance that I need to perform at my best.”
Djokovic will continue his quest for a record-equaling 21st Grand Slam at the upcoming French Open and Wimbledon events, after both announced there would be no requirement for players to be vaccinated.
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