Australian Open: In 2023, end of “roller coaster” for Novak Djokovic?

After a 2022 season disturbed by his refusal to be vaccinated against the COVVID, the Serbian, back to the Australian Grand Slam tournament after his expulsion last year, aspires to a return to normal. He faces, Tuesday, January 17, the Spaniard Roberto Carballes.

by Laura Pottier

There are images that we do not forget. That of Novak Djokovic masked and escorted to his place in the EK 409 flight for Dubai, went around the world. We are on January 16, 2022, the Serbian left Melbourne eleven days after arriving on Australian soil while the Australian Open begins the next day.

“What happened is worthy of a film”, summarizes the former French player Nathalie Dechy. Let’s get back. It all starts with a photo posted by the Serbian , all smiles next to her luggage before departure in Australia. Not vaccinated against the COVVI-19, he announced that he had obtained a derogation allowing him to bypass the vaccination obligation then in force. This banal post on Instagram, however, sets fire to the powder: the player, then the world number one, benefited from a right pass? Expected by the border police upon arrival, he justifies his exemption by recent positive control, but the authorities consider that the evidence is insufficient and withdraw his visa. A decision that the Federal Court ends up confirming, expelling the country.

A year after this imbroglio, Novak Djokovic is back in Melbourne (he faces, Tuesday, January 17, Espagnot Roberto Carballes, 75 e world player) and, this time, it’s For sporting reasons that all eyes will be turned to him. “He will be keen to rebound after last year’s affront, thinks Nathalie Dechy. He arrived early in Australia and played a preparation tournament, it shows that he is hypermotivated.” The incredible scenes in front of the Park Hotel de Melbourne, where he had been placed in detention, gave way to public ovation on the blue shorts of Adélaïde, where he won 92 e tournament of his career, Sunday 8 January, equaling his rival Rafael Nadal.

History could be repeated

The start, for him, of a return to normal? Passed to a victory to achieve the Grand Chelem Calendar in 2021 – After winning the first three major tournaments of the year, he lost in the US Open final – the “Djoker” saw his plans thwarted by his Refusal to be vaccinated against COVVI-19. “It was the roller coaster,” he admitted about his 2022 season.

Deprived of all tournaments on the American continent (four Masters 1000 – the most prestigious tournament category after the Grand Colem – and the US Open), deprived of points for its title in Wimbledon – Russian and Belarusian players Being excluded from the war in Ukraine -the Serbian, however “animated by the record for records”, as Arnaud Di Pasquale reminds us, lost big. “Are you ready to give up a chance to become the greatest player who has ever held a racket?”, Asked an English journalist when of an interview with the BBC, in February 2022 . “Yes, this is the price I am ready to pay,” he replied, insisting that I am not “against vaccination” but having “always supported the freedom to choose what you put in your body”.

With only eleven tournaments played last year, Novak Djokovic has almost become a part -time player. “What he did, with what he experienced, is exceptional. He responded every time when the pressure was perhaps more important. He wants to show that he is the best,” comments Arnaud Di Pasquale. With seven finals for five titles, including one of the Grand Chelem, the Masters at the end of the year and the Masters 1000 in Rome, the Serbus has shown formidable efficiency.

But in 2023 history could repeat itself. Due to his convictions, the 35 -year -old should miss, again this year, the American tour, failing to be vaccinated. “He undoubtedly crossed the hardest,” says Tatiana Golovin, a former French player who became a consultant for BeIN Sports. There, he expects it and it should be easier to manage with the experience of last year. Everything is always more complicated for him, but he writes a story different from other players. “

/Media reports cited above.