Novak Djokovic says despite weeks away from competition and the emotional distress over his recent detention and deportation, he feels he’s at his “peak” as he returns to action.
- The Dubai Tennis Championships will be Novak Djokovic’s first tournament since being deported from Australia over his vaccination status
- Dubai authorities do not require visitors to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to enter
- Djokovic says he’s “as well prepared as [he] possibly can be” for the tournament
The world number one was upbeat at a news conference on the eve of the Dubai Tennis Championship on Sunday, his first tournament since being ejected from Australia and missing the year’s first grand slam over his vaccination status.
“It wasn’t really difficult for me to pick up a racquet and go out and practice the sport and just play,” the Serbian told reporters.
“I’m as well prepared as I possibly can be.”
Djokovic’s presence brings an unusual amount of scrutiny to the annual tournament near Dubai International Airport and authorities also apparently took extraordinary steps of their own.
Organisers blocked most photographers and videographers from Djokovic’s news conference without explanation.
Earlier, security guards were out in force at Djokovic’s practice, questioning reporters who tried to grab a glimpse of him on the court.
These restrictions were not in place, the guards acknowledged, for any other players.
The toll deportation took on Djokovic
The saga of Djokovic’s cancelled travel visa on the eve of the Australian Open drew intense interest around the world, shining a light on how public officials approach pandemic restrictions and exemptions.
But Djokovic admitted the dramatic legal dispute also took a personal toll.
“There were lots of emotions after I came back from Australia,” he said.
Djokovic’s fierce commitment to stay unvaccinated against the coronavirus for the time being means he could be barred from competing in a series of upcoming grand slams.
The 34-year-old has made it clear that this is a cost he’s willing to bear.
“Whatever tournament I’ll be able to play I’ll be trying to get to that country and play that tournament,” he said, acknowledging his freedom of movement and access to tournaments would depend on local virus restrictions.
“I really can’t choose. It’s really about where I can go and play.”
Dubai authorities do not require visitors to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to enter.
After hours spent ripping backhands on the baseline in Dubai, Djokovic added he was excited about returning to the tournament he has won five times.
“Having previous positive experiences on the court and titles obviously connects me to this place even more,” he said, noting that players had so far seemed warm and welcoming, unlike in Australia.
“We’ll play this tournament and see how it goes further down the line.”