As Novak Djokovic entered the court for his second-round match on Thursday, the commentator in Adelaide stated, “It must feel like coming onto a home court for Novak Djokovic.” There are so many Serbian flags and supporters here.
Djokovic was regarded as the nation’s enemy a year ago in Australia. The government imprisoned the unvaccinated celebrity in a refugee detention facility before sending him on the run, reportedly for three years, because they believed he posed a risk to the country’s health. His deportation saga made front-page news all around the world.
One year later, everything—or most of it—seems to have been forgotten. In addition to receiving a visa and having his three-year suspension lifted, Djokovic has received the customary celebrity welcome in Adelaide. On Thursday, Serbian flags flew, “No-vak” chants echoed, and as the game’s conclusion drew near, the young spectators dashed toward the court to line up for an autograph.
This year, Djokovic said, “all the fans here have been very nice to me and my team, especially the Serbian community, and have made us feel very welcome. I’m using the energy they are providing me to play my best tennis and win a match. “
With Quentin Halys waiting for him in the second round, Djokovic needed that energy. The Frenchman, who is only ranked 64th overall, can smash the ball, and on Adelaide’s fast surface, he did it well enough to take an early 5-2 lead. As per usual, Djokovic reacted by locking down and pursuing everything. He hasn’t fallen back even a half-step in his two years away from Australia.
Djokovic recovered to win the first set, but he was never out of it. At 4-5 in the second set, Halys fended off two match points and took a 4-3 tiebreaker advantage. At that point, Djokovic finally summoned all of his shot-making skills, producing a classic open-stance backhand pass that fell at Halys’ feet and effectively gave him the victory.
“He was hitting his spots, and he was being very precise, and he was also serving big,” Djokovic said of the opponent’s serve. I’m happy that I was able to overcome this obstacle. Winning two tiebreakers boosts confidence at the beginning of the year. “
Unsurprisingly, Djokovic has attempted to keep the conversation firmly in the present tense ever since his arrival in Australia.
Because of the events that occurred a year ago, he said earlier this week, “I can say it was different coming into Australia this year than any other year certainly, but at the same time, 12 months is quite a long time, as well.” It has already passed me by. Now I’ve moved on. “
More significantly, at least today, the world has changed. The new Omicron wave of the virus affected Australia last year, just like every other nation. Since then, the wave has subsided, and many of us have learned from personal experience that while vaccination may shield us from Covid’s most severe effects, it won’t prevent us from contracting the disease in the first place. Because of this, those who are not immunized are no longer stigmatized.
Regarding his time in Australia this year, Djokovic said, “Everyone I encountered on the beach or in restaurants or wherever I was kind of roaming around the city or, of course, here at the tennis, was very welcoming.”
He will only sometimes be accepted everywhere, though. News that he might not be allowed to enter the U.S. has surfaced even as he returned to Australia this week. S. for the Indian Wells and Miami Masters 1000s in the spring.
In response to a query regarding the U.S. ban, Djokovic said, “What can I do? Nothing.” And that’s it. You are aware of my position. Whatever it is, it is. “
Just because the vaccines worked differently than we initially thought doesn’t justify Djokovic’s anti-vaccination position. As strange as the turnabout may seem, Australia wasn’t wrong to declare him persona non grata the previous year, and the nation’s supporters aren’t bad to support him this time, either. Though times change, Djokovic’s game and his capacity to overcome failures endure.