Carlos Alcaraz wants to see Novak Djokovic 'play every tournament'

World No 1 is delighted Djokovic will return to compete at the Australian Open, one year after his infamous deportation

Carlos Alcaraz, right, and Novak Djokovic, left, contested their first match against each other at the Madrid Masters semi-finals this year, which Alcaraz won after three close sets. AFP
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Carlos Alcaraz said he is looking forward to Novak Djokovic returning to the Australian Open next month as the world No 1 prepares for the new season with "a target on my back".

Djokovic was infamously deported from Australia in January having arrived to defend his record-extending ninth Australian Open title with a medical exemption - an exemption that was deemed insufficient by Border Police and then, ultimately, the Australian government.

The 21-time Grand Slam champion will be in Melbourne next month, though, after it was recently announced that he had received a visa to travel Down Under and compete in the tournament.

Djokovic's decision not to get vaccinated against Covid-19 severely limited his schedule this year, with the Serb forced to also miss the US Open. Alcaraz took full advantage of his absence in New York, claiming his maiden major title and becoming the ATP Tour's youngest ever world No 1 in the process.

While Djokovic's absence from any tournament provides a boost to the title chances of the rest of the field, Alcaraz insisted he is delighted the former world No 1 will be back to a full schedule in 2023. The pair did meet once in 2022 - their first encounter - in a thrilling Madrid Masters semi-final, which Alcaraz edged in three sets en route to the trophy.

“Tennis is better having the best players in the world, and for the fans as well it’s good to see a tournament with the best player,” Alcaraz, 19, told reporters in Abu Dhabi, where he set to take part in the Mubadala World Tennis Championship.

“Talking for me, I want to see Novak play in every tournament. I always said that if you want to be the best, you have to beat the best player in the world. I’m a lucky guy to have Djokovic on the tour.”

Alcaraz arrived in Abu Dhabi following a sensational season which saw the Spaniard win five titles, including two Masters 1000s, although he was unable to compete at the season-ending ATP Finals having sustained an abdominal injury that forced him to retire from his Paris Masters quarter-final against Holger Rune last month.

“I feel good finally. I had a month to recover the ab well and right now I feel almost 100 per cent. I have been training normally this past week and I’m feeling great,” Alcaraz said.

Starting 2022 as an exciting, emerging young talent, Alcaraz concluded the season as a history-making Grand Slam champion and the top-ranked player in the world. As such, expectations will be somewhat different heading into 2023 for what will be only his third full season on tour. Not that it's fazing him one bit.

Day 1 at MWTC 2022

“Of course having a target on my back from everyone is going to be a little bit different for me this year and I have to be prepared for that,” he said. “I’m going to try to finish 2023 at the same position as right now. It’s going to be a long year but of course I’m going to enjoy.”

As one of the top two seeds alongside Casper Ruud, Alcaraz begins his MWTC campaign in the semi-finals on Saturday against either Croatia's Borna Coric or Russian Andrey Rublev, who are contesting their quarter-final on Friday evening.

Stefanos Tsitsipas had earlier defeated Cameron Norrie, so will take on Ruud in Saturday's other semi-final.

Updated: December 16, 2022, 6:00 PM