'No grudges' for Novak Djokovic as he thanks Australia for the 'love'

Fans flock to see Serb in singles action at Adelaide International as he aims to put 2022 deportation behind him

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Novak Djokovic said he holds "no grudges" and thanked fans for coming out to see him play in Adelaide as he ramps up preparations for this month's Australian Open.

The Serb was given a warm welcome during Monday's doubles match at the Adelaide International and received similar treatment on a packed centre court as he beat Frenchman Constant Lestienne 6-3, 6-2 on Tuesday in singles action.

Djokovic, 35, is back in Australia a year after being kicked out on the eve of the 2022 Australian Open for not being vaccinated against Covid-19.

He was barred from returning for three years, but the government has since lifted the ban and Djokovic is now free to chase a 10th Australian Open title and a 22nd Grand Slam overall.

"It's great to be back. To see the packed house for my first match was definitely a very pleasant surprise. Lots of support, lots of love," he said at a press conference.

"That obviously motivated me and allowed me to express myself in the best possible way on the court with my game."

"A lot of Serbia flags, I know the Serbian community here in Adelaide is big but I didn't think so many would come and I thank them very much."

Djokovic given a hero's welcome in Adelaide

Last year's Australian Open was overshadowed by Djokovic being put on a plane on the eve of the contest after a high-stakes legal battle over his visa status.

It left a bitter taste, but he held "no grudges" and had moved on.

"It was different coming to Australia this year than any other year basically because of the events of 12 months ago," he said.

"But at the same time, 12 months is also a long time ago, already it is behind me, I've moved on and looking forward.

"There's no reason to focus on ... what you focus on is what you become, if you focus on the negatives that is what you'll become, so I don't want to do that.

"I don't hold a grudge, I'm here to play tennis, to enjoy sports and spread good energy."

The Australian Open is the first Grand Slam of the year and kicks off at Melbourne Park from January 16.

Djokovic made light work of his match against Lestienne, completing his routine victory in 74 minutes, breaking once in the first set and twice in the second.

"For the first match I can't complain, I played very well," Djokovic said. "I thought the first probably six games were very competitive.

"I've never faced him before today's match. He's a counter-puncher. He doesn't make too many mistakes and he kind of absorbs the pace from his opponent, kind of tricky serve, hits his spots.

"But once I made that break at 3-2 first set I felt like I stepped it up one or two levels and played really good tennis the rest of the match."

Updated: January 03, 2023, 8:42 AM
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