Turin, Italy, Nov 16 (EFE).- Serbian tennis great Novak Djokovic said here Wednesday he is relieved that the Australian government has overturned his visa ban, a move that clears the way for him to compete at the Australian Open in January.
The winner of a record nine men’s singles titles at that Grand Slam event arrived in Melbourne near the start of the 2022 season, but he was immediately detained and later deported due to rules barring the entry of persons not vaccinated against Covid-19.
Although the Serbian superstar still is not vaccinated, he will be able to compete in next year’s event because Australian authorities on Tuesday lifted the three-year visa ban they had imposed on him.
“I was very happy to receive the news yesterday. It was a relief obviously knowing what I and the people closest to me in my life have been through this year with what happened in Australia and post-Australia,” Djokovic told reporters after defeating Russia’s Andrey Rublev 6-4, 6-1 Wednesday to advance to the final four of the ATP Finals, an elite, season-ending event being played in Turin.
“Did it affect my game today? I would like to believe it did. Why not? I don’t think it did affect me too much because I’m familiar with what I need to do in order to prepare myself for every match,” he added.
Djokovic, who also missed another Grand Slam event this year – the US Open – due to that country’s Covid-19 border restrictions, recalled the great success he has enjoyed in Melbourne throughout his career.
“Australian Open has been my most successful Grand Slam. I made some of the best memories there. Of course, I want to go back there, I want to play tennis, do what I do best, hopefully have a great Australian summer,” said Djokovic, whose ranking has fallen to No. 8 because of his limited tournament play this year.
The Serbian this week is aiming to equal the record haul of ATP Finals titles compiled by recently retired Swiss great Roger Federer, who captured six between 2003 and 2011.
The 35-year-old Djokovic has been the most successful player of the last decade in men’s tennis and is now second only to Spanish arch-rival Rafael Nadal in total Grand Slam singles titles (22 to 21).
But he has not won the ATP Finals, regarded by many as the next biggest tournament in the sport after the four Grand Slam events, since 2015.
Also Wednesday, Djokovic congratulated Spanish 19-year-old sensation Carlos Alcaraz on clinching the year-end No. 1 ranking this week.
Alcaraz, who was honored in Turin on Wednesday night even though he is not playing the ATP Finals due to injury, is the youngest player to achieve that feat in the ATP Tour’s nearly 50-year history and the only teenager to do so.
“He deserves it. No doubt about it. I don’t want to go into discussion what if I played less or more, whatever. It is what it is. Reality is that he’s No. 1. He deserves to be there. He won a Slam (the US Open). He won many matches in tournaments.”
“He’s I think a great new face and a player for our sport. He’s a very nice guy. Works very hard. Has a good team of people around him. Represents himself and tennis in a good way. I find only the positive things to say about him.” EFE