Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Hot favourite Novak Djokovic is out for "revenge" in the Australian Open

Novak Djokovic hot favourite for Australian Open 'revenge' mission

 MELBOURNE: Novak Djokovic has won the Australian Open a record nine times, but after serving a humiliating year-long ban, winning his tenth title in Melbourne this month will be his greatest accomplishment.

The Serbian superstar, one of the greatest men's tennis players of all time, was at the center of a worldwide storm a year ago when he fought to avoid being deported from Australia.

On the eve of the Grand Slam, the 35-year-old was kicked out of the country following a high-profile legal battle over his refusal to get vaccinated against Covid.

His great rival Rafael Nadal won the Australian Open in his absence, capturing a record 21st major title.

Djokovic was viewed as the victim of politics by some, including former world number one Jim Courier, in an election year in Australia.

Djokovic, who was held for a while in an immigration detention center during the saga, is now the clear favorite to win the tournament next week.

It would be his 22nd Grand Slam title, tying him with Rafael Nadal for the top male record.

Djokovic returned to Australia in January 2022 to the delight of many, but there are signs that public sentiment has softened since then.

He won the 92nd ATP title of his career, level with the Spaniard Nadal, by blowing out the rest of the field last week in Adelaide. He received strong support from the crowd.

After saving a match point against Sebastian Korda in the final on Sunday, Djokovic said, "The support I have been getting in the last 10 days was something that I don't think I've experienced too many times in my life."

According to a survey, 30 percent of Australians now support him entering the country, up from 14 percent in January of last year, as reported by The Sydney Morning Herald.

Djokovic appears to have the upper hand this time, given his ominous physique.

Nadal's age and injuries appear to be catching up with him. Since losing to Frances Tiafoe in the round of 16 at the US Open, the 36-year-old has lost six of his last seven matches.

World number one Carlos Alcaraz, the new kid on the block, is out of Melbourne with an injury, and Roger Federer is no longer in the picture.

Daniil Medvedev, the 2021 and 2022 losers who defeated Novak Djokovic in the US Open final to win his only major, poses the most obvious threat to Nadal.

However, in the Adelaide semi-finals last week, Djokovic defeated Medvedev 6-3, 6-4, and Medvedev fell to eighth in the world.

Mats Wilander, a seven-time Grand Slam champion and former world number one, believes that Djokovic is the "pretty heavy favourite" in Melbourne and will be doubly motivated by last year's events.

The Swede, 58, told Eurosport, "I don't think that we have ever seen a more hungry tennis player in terms of wanting to get revenge or win matches."

"No one has ever been hungrier than Novak is going to be," I believe.

However, Djokovic's long-time coach, Serena Williams' former coach Patrick Mouratoglou, cautioned that the controversies surrounding his deportation could affect him emotionally.

He stated, "It's going to be difficult for Novak in Australia, that's for sure."

He will have a lot of emotional baggage. In terms of his emotions, he has experienced a great deal. No one is spared."

Djokovic acknowledged earlier this month, in his first public statement since returning to Australia, that the events of last year "stays with you for, I guess, the rest of your life."

He said, however, that he had no resentment after defeating Korda to win the Adelaide title.

He stated, "I couldn't ask for a better lead-up to the Australian Open."

"Australia is a great place to play. That is clear from the results I got."

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