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Novak Djokovic receives big reception as he returns to action in Dubai

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World number one Novak Djokovic belatedly began his 2022 campaign with a convincing 6-3, 6-3 defeat of Italian teenager Lorenzo Musetti at the Dubai Championships on Monday.

The 34-year-old showed no sign of rust or mental baggage from his Australian Open saga, producing a typically clinical display to ease into the second round.

It was Djokovic’s first match this year after his hopes of playing at the Australian Open were dashed after he was deported following an 11-day saga revolving around his decision not to have a COVID-19 vaccination and a controversial exemption.

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Two court hearings were involved in the decision to send the Serb home from Melbourne — with Australia’s immigration minister Alex Hawke eventually deciding he could fuel anti-vax sentiment.

But back on a tennis court in the relaxed surrounds of Dubai’s Aviation Club, Djokovic showed just why he would have been favourite to win a 10th Australian Open crown and beat Rafael Nadal to a men’s record 21st Grand Slam title.

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After being cheered on to court by the late night crowd, Djokovic moved through the gears, breaking Musetti’s serve in the fourth game of a routine first set.

Djokovic, watched by his entourage including wife Jelena, got an early break in the second set with a forehand winner.

He briefly dropped his level when serving at 3-2, forced to save break points, but never looked threatened as his supporters, many with Serbian flags, cheered his winners.

Djokovic crunched a superb forehand winner in the final game and claimed victory on his first match point.

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