Novak’s nod to Aussie love affair after visa mess

    Novak Djokovic admits he “can’t forget” the events of January but says the fact he’s returned to Australia reflects his love of the country.

    The Serbian superstar spoke with calmness about his deportation from Australia after pausing a training session in Adelaide, where he’s fine-tuning for the Adelaide International.

    “It’s one of those things that sticks with you … for the rest of your life,” Djokovic said.

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    “As I said, (it’s) something that I’ve never experienced before and hopefully never again.

    “But it is a valuable life experience for me and something that, as I said, will stay there, but I have to move on.

    “Coming back to Australia speaks (to) how I feel about this country, how I feel about playing here.”

    Djokovic, who remains unvaccinated against COVID-19, was booted from Australia ahead of January’s Australian Open after an unsuccessful challenge of his visa cancellation in a federal court.

    The 21-time major champion was slapped with a three-year ban but is back in Australia after immigration minister Andrew Giles overturned the suspension in November.

    Despite the shambolic circumstances in which Djokovic was escorted, he says Australia — where he’s enjoyed most of his grand slam success — is “close to my heart”.

    Watch Team Australia take on the world in the United Cup, live and exclusive on 9Now and Stan Sport.

    “What happened 12 months ago was not easy to digest for some time, but at the same time I had to move on,” Djokovic said.

    “That event or those circumstances will not replace what I have lived in Melbourne and in Australia for my entire career.

    “So, I come in with positive emotions and I really look forward (to) playing there.

    “It’s my favourite slam and results are proving that.”

    Rafael Nadal hadn’t won the Australian Open since 2009 but pounced in the absence of Djokovic this year, shining at Melbourne Park to clinch a record-breaking 21st major title.

    The Spanish ace then won the French Open to claim his 22nd major crown.

    Djokovic has won nine Australian Open titles, triumphed at Wimbledon on seven occasions, tasted US Open glory three times and conquered Roland-Garros twice, for a total of 21 grand slam titles.

    The prizemoney allocated for the Australian summer of tennis has increased to more than $100 million.

    The Australian Open cash pool has lifted to $76.5 million thanks to a 3.4 per cent rise, with the two singles champions set to receive $2.98 million each.

    “It is critical to the continued success of the Australian tennis summer that we provide strong and relevant playing opportunities and ensure that the best players in the world are compensated appropriately,” said Tennis Australia chief executive Craig Tiley.

    “We want to ensure Australia is the launchpad for the global season and that we see as much of them as possible.”

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