Novak Djokovic.
Novak Djokovic has been catching up with some WA locals ahead of another Australian Open challenge. Image by HANDOUT/TENNIS AUSTRALIA
  • tennis

Djokovic less nervous as he returns to his happy place

Justin Chadwick December 30, 2023

World No.1 Novak Djokovic says he isn’t feeling as nervous in Australia this year compared to last summer as he attempts to snare grand slam No.25 in his self-proclaimed happy place.

Djokovic made headlines across the world when he was deported from Australia in January 2022 for refusing to take the COVID-19 vaccine.

The 36-year-old returned to the country last summer, and he wore his emotions on his sleeve on the way to winning the Australian Open for a record 10th time.

The tears Djokovic shed upon winning the first grand slam of the year showcased the emotional rollercoaster he had endured to get back to that stage.

Djokovic’s arrival in Australia this time around has been a far more stock-standard affair, and he’ll start the summer competing for Serbia in Perth at the mixed-teams United Cup.

“It’s a bit different (this year),” Djokovic said on Saturday afternoon.

“Last year coming into Australia, obviously after what happened two years ago, I did feel slightly more nervous, particularly in the first week or so being in Australia.

“But actually people in Adelaide – because that’s where I landed first last year – welcomed me with open arms and lots of support and very kind reception.

“And then I had the perfect record actually, winning both Adelaide and Australian Open.

“That that was pretty much the case when, throughout most of my career, I had the great start of the season in Australia.

“I always felt like that (Australia) was my happy place where I’ve felt great, other than that situation two years ago where obviously it wasn’t really enjoyable.

“But other than that, I’ve always enjoyed myself, play the best tennis, and so my feelings coming into Australia this year are really positive.”

Novak Djokovic.
 Novak Djokovic speaks to the media in Perth ahead of Serbia’s United Cup participation. Image by Richard Wainwright/AAP PHOTOS 

Djokovic will spearhead team Serbia alongside world No.119 Olga Danilovic.

So how will Djokovic treat the event?

“There’s only one percentage in my head, it’s always 100 per cent really,” Djokovic said.

“I wouldn’t be here if I’m not able to play or give my best in both singles and potentially mixed doubles.

“So, you know, I look forward hopefully contributing with at least one win for my country.”

Serbia will begin their campaign against China on Sunday evening, pitting Djokovic against world No.58 Zhizhen Zhang in the men’s singles.

Djokovic has been busy fine-tuning his game since arriving in on Thursday, but he also had time for a trip to Rottnest Island.