The 21-time Grand Slam champion Novak Djokovic has reportedly touched down in Australia ahead of the first Major of 2022.
Serbia missed out on the United Cup owing to Djokovic’s failure to declare for the event which meant that the emerging tennis power didn’t have the rankings clout to get into the event.
That also means that Djokovic is set to start his season in Adelaide at the outset of the new year.
Tennis Australia chief executive Craig Tiley said he hoped local fans would embrace Djokovic’s return after the Serb’s controversial last visit.
Djokovic was initially banned from the country for three years after losing his high-stakes legal battle earlier this year over his vaccine status.
Determined to win his tenth Aussie Open title, Djokovic’s bloody-mindedness over the issue has split opinions. Some hailed him as a champion of autonomy from the state others encouraged him of peddling dangerous views.
However, all of that is set to take a backseat to his on-court return.
While a mixed response from fans is possible, Djokovic is expected to enjoy his usual high levels of support from neutrals during the Australian Open season even if the wider public holds divergent views on the star.
“We welcome him back to Australia,” he told reporters.
“I think as we speak he’s landing in Adelaide and I think that he is going to be again the player to beat.
“I have a great deal of confidence in the Australian public. I have a lot of confidence that the fans will react how we hope they will react.”
Djokovic himself is cautiously optimistic about the reception he will receive in Australia.
“Over the years I’ve been really fortunate to start very strong in Australia and I love playing there,” the world number five said in Dubai last week after ending 2022 with a record-equalling sixth ATP Tour Finals crown.
“After obviously what happened earlier this year, hopefully I can have a decent reception there and hopefully that can help me play some good tennis.”
Djokovic last arrived in Melbourne in January for the first Grand Slam tournament of the year, after he had obtained a medical exemption to enter the Australian Open without being vaccinated because he had recently recovered from COVID-19.
However, Australian border officials said he did not meet the requirements to be exempted from strict vaccination rules and he was detained for five days while pursuing an ultimately futile appeal