Djokovic declares himself ‘top’ when returning to tour in Dubai

Novak Djokovic said on Sunday that despite a long hiatus and all the stress caused by his recent arrest and deportation from Australia, he feels “full” as he reappears on the tennis tour.

The Serbian star was enthusiastic when he appeared at a press conference prior to the Dubai tournament, the first he has played since the drama in Australia that prevented him from competing in the first Grand Slam of the year after not having been vaccinated.

“It has not been difficult at all to pick up a racket again, train and start playing,” said the world number one. “I’m in the best possible shape.”

Djokovic’s presence brings more attention than usual to the tournament, which is being held at a complex near Dubai’s international airport. The security around Djokovic is extraordinary.

The organizers prevented the presence of most photographers and cameramen at Djokovic’s press conference, without giving explanations. Security personnel also questioned reporters trying to watch him train. The restrictions, agents acknowledged, did not apply to the other players.

The saga of Djokovic, whose visa was canceled on the eve of the start of the Australian Open, generated a global furor as restrictions and other protocols were debated amid the pandemic. The legal drama also took an emotional toll on the 34-year-old Serb.

“There were a lot of emotions coming back from Australia,” he said. “It was weird. He was disappointed, sad about how everything was handled and the way I had to leave the country.”

Djokovic’s insistence on not getting vaccinated against the coronavirus at the moment could prevent him from competing at upcoming Grand Slam events, including the French and US Opens.

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With Djokovic absent, Rafael Nadal was crowned in Melbourne to become the man with the most Grand Slam titles in history. He reached 21, one more than Djokovic and Roger Federer.

Djokovic reiterated that this is a cost he is willing to take.

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