DUBAI: Novak Djokovic admitted the warm reception he received from fans in Dubai on Monday exceeded his expectations as he made a successful return to the tour for the first time since his expulsion from Australia. The world No.1 kicked off his 2022 campaign with a 6-3, 6-3 win over Italian teenager Lorenzo Musetti, and was greeted with loud cheers in a packed stadium as he began his quest for a sixth title at the Emirates in style. Djokovic was unsure how he would be received following everything that happened in Australia last month, but said he ‘couldn’t ask for a better reception’ as fans rushed for photos with him after the game, chanting ‘Nole, Nole’, to celebrate his victory and his return to action.
“I think Dubai is a perfect place for me to start a season because of the support and the fans who showed up tonight and really cheered me on like they did,” Djokovic told reporters during an outdoor press conference specially organized for him, away from the main interview room. “They exceeded my best expectations, so to speak, in terms of ambiance.” The 34-year-old’s hopes of winning a 10th Australian Open and a 21st Grand Slam last month were dashed when he had his visa canceled and was deported for not being vaccinated against Covid-19. In his absence, Rafael Nadal clinched a record 21st major title, edging out Djokovic and Roger Federer – who each have 20 – in the race for Grand Slam supremacy. “The (Australian Open) final, I was trying not to watch it, but then I had my family watching, basically everyone was watching, my wife and kids, so I had to follow it. “, explained Djokovic. “But congratulations to Rafa. Incredible performance. Incredible fighter that he is. “I have tons of respect for him. I don’t want to take anything away from his victory, me who is not participating in the tournament despite everything. Of course, it was not a pleasant feeling for me to leave the country as I did. have done and watch the tournament from afar. Djokovic acknowledges that his reputation has taken a hit in recent weeks and has consulted with several PR professionals to better understand the “different dynamics” surrounding his situation, which he admits, degenerated beyond sports and entered several fields, including politics.
“In terms of image, I really don’t know. Of course, there haven’t been many positive stories about this whole situation over the past month. I think things may be moving a bit. I hope. But I understand that there is still a lot of speculation and people wondering,” he said. Djokovic can play in Dubai as a coronavirus vaccine is not mandatory to enter the UAE, but he revealed that “as of now” he cannot enter the United States to compete in upcoming Masters events 1000 in Indian Wells and Miami. . His meeting with Musetti, 19, was his first competitive game since the Davis Cup final in Madrid last December. It was a rematch of their fourth round of Roland Garros from last spring, where Musetti led Djokovic by two sets to love before retiring in the decider. On Monday, top seed Djokovic needed just 74 minutes to qualify for the last 16 where he will face either Karen Khachanov or Minaur’s Alex. Earlier, former world number one Andy Murray battled for almost three hours against Australian qualifier Christopher O’Connell before advancing to the second round with a 6-7 (4/7), 6 win. -3, 7-5. Murray is just one win away from his goal of reaching 700 career wins and could tick that item off his list if he emerges victorious in his next Dubai clash against Italy’s No. 4 seed Jannik Sinner or the Spaniard Alejandro Davidovich. Fokina. The three-time Grand Slam winner, competing in Dubai for the first time since winning the title in 2017, says he disagrees with Djokovic’s stance against the vaccine, but thinks the tour is better when the world No. 1 is able to compete.
“I think it would obviously be a lot easier for him if he got the shot,” Murray said. “But I also didn’t like seeing him in the situation he was in in Australia as someone I respect, who I’ve known since I was a kid. “There are consequences to the decisions he’s just made. He obviously has to accept it, but I don’t think it’s great for tennis if our best player doesn’t play in the big games. * Follow us on instagram and join our Telegram and or WhatsApp channel(s) for the latest news you don’t want to miss.
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