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Djokovic ‘a bit emotional’ after warm return to Australian Open

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MELBOURNE: Novak Djokovic was “a bit emotional” after receiving a warm welcome Friday on his return to Melbourne Park, before facing Nick Kyrgios in a sell-out Australian Open exhibition match.

All 15,000 seats at Rod Laver Arena sold out in 58 minutes, with proceeds going to charity, ahead of the first Grand Slam of the year on Monday.

Djokovic, who was deported a year ago, was given a good reception when he went on to win an Adelaide warm-up tournament last week and it was a similar story at Rod Laver Arena, where he is a nine-time champion.

“Thank you so much, feel a bit emotional right now to be honest,” the former world number one from Serbia told the crowd after his entrance on court was met by cheers and applause.

“I was really looking forward to coming back to this court, so thank you all you guys for coming out tonight for a great cause,” said the 35-year-old, one of the best men’s tennis players of all time.

Djokovic has dominated the Australian Open since his maiden triumph in 2008 but he had his visa cancelled 12 months ago and was deported on the eve of the tournament because of his stance on Covid vaccines.

Published in Dawn, January 14th, 2023

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