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Australian Open 2023: Melbourne fans ready to make Novak Djokovic feel welcome

Novak Djokovic made his way to Melbourne for the Australian Open unsure about the reception he would receive after being deported before last year’s Grand Slam over his unvaccinated status, but forgiving fans said the nine-times champion was welcome again.

– Novak Djokovic –

The Serb is back at Melbourne Park for the first time since winning his ninth title in 2021 and says he “likes his chances”. He was kicked out of the country ahead of the tournament last year over his Covid vaccination stance.

The 21-time Grand Slam winner also missed the US Open for the same reason, but won Wimbledon and is heavy favourite at his most successful major despite a niggling hamstring injury.

Now 35, the former world number one finished a troubled 2022 with a record-equalling sixth ATP Tour Finals crown and began the new year in irrepressible form, winning his 92nd career title at the Adelaide International.

“I know when I’m healthy and playing my best, on this court (Rod Laver Arena) I have chances really against anybody,” he said.

Melbourne, January 15

Plenty has changed since the last time Novak Djokovic was in Melbourne. In one of the most dramatic turn of events, the former World No.1 tennis player was deported from Australia after a court battle amid the Covid-19 pandemic in January 2022. Djokovic had his visa canceled due to his unvaccinated status as the Serb was deprived of a chance to defend his Australian Open crown last year.

Djokovic still has no proof of vaccination but with the Australian government easing Covid-19 regulations for visitors, the 21-time Grand Slam champion has an opportunity to compete at the season’s first Grand Slam tournament, starting Monday, January 16.

Djokovic heads into the Australian Open as one of the favorites, if not the firm favourite. Djokovic will look to win a record-extending 10th title at Melbourne Park and emulate Rafael Nadal as the only second player to win a Grand Slam 10 times in the Open Era.

Djokovic will also tie Nadal with 22 Grand Slams, the most in men’s singles if he goes on to lift the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup on the second Sunday of the Slam.

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