Australian Open 2023: Australia hails its king Djokovic | Sports

At 10:30 p.m., the almost 15,000 attendees who populate the two rings of Melbourne’s Rod Laver Arena rise and welcome as the speaker recites a long list of hits, nine of them in Australia, and as he finishes and releases the hospitable welcome back, Novak Djokovic, the noise explodes: “Ooo-eeeeé, oeeeeé, oeeeeé, oeeeeé… No-leeeeee, No-leeeeee!”. Victorious, he greets, expresses himself, thanks and before signing autographs, balls, caps and shirts for half an hour, he proclaims: “Incredible atmosphere, thank you very much everyone. I am very happy to be in Australia, on the track where I have been most successful in my career, the most special of my life. If I had to choose some conditions, it would be at night in the Rod Laver Arena ”, he specifies; “I am delighted with the way I played in the third set. In the second, I had ups and downs, and I give credit to Roberto, with whom I train a lot in Spain. He deserves recognition because he’s a great guy.”

Before that photo, the 21-big champion meekly peeks out of the locker room entrance, who 695 days later returns to step on the track that he made his own and to which he returns (6-3, 6-4 and 6-0 to Roberto Carballés from Granada , after 2h 02m) after the absence of the last course, when he directly blew himself up; you know, the rejection of the vaccine and the grotesque episode in accessing the country, with a double arrest, the final deportation and the attempt to transform the mess – to which the Australian Tennis Federation contributed, assuring him that he had the green light to traveling – in a diplomatic conflict with his family at the gates of the Parliament in Belgrade; remember, the father with a megaphone in hand and forcing the speech, comparing his son with Jesus Christ and qualifying him as “the Spartacus of the free world”. Later, interviews to the athlete’s letter to explain well, that the world had not fully understood his message and that therein lay the problem; It is not that he was unsupportive or posed a “threat to public health”, as determined by the Australian court, but that his holistic spirit told him that the injection was not good for him; he simply did not suit her sculpted body of an elite athlete.

“I am not against vaccination, but I have always defended the freedom to decide what you put in your body. The principles of the decisions I make about my body are more important than any title, ”he told the BBC in February, a month after the expulsion from the oceanic country. “This is extra motivation, that’s for sure. It will serve as fuel for me”, he continued three days later on the National Television of Serbia (RTS), with the intention of settling (sportingly) accounts with all those who had pointed out and disfigured the election; after all, he was (and is) the only player among the 100 best in the world who had renounced the injection, which prevented him from playing in Melbourne – where he could undo the historic tie at 20 greats with Rafael Nadal, now 22 -21 for the Spaniard-, and also in Indian Wells, Miami, Montreal, Cincinnati and New York, who knows if not at Roland Garros (which in the end did admit him).

Serbian Novak Djokovic during the match.
Serbian Novak Djokovic during the match.MARTIN KEEP (AFP)

That is to say, the ideology ahead and, in parallel, a substantial renunciation of victories, prizes and points, competing in bursts in those places that opened the doors for him. They did it in Dubai, after 80 days prostrate (voluntarily) in the corner of thinking, proud and redeemed. “There haven’t been many positive articles about this whole situation in the last month, but I think things are changing a bit. I have hope, ”he pronounced upon his return, before going through the clay court tour and then landing at Wimbledon, his traditional cathartic space. Over there rose in 2018 after the crisis that was very close to removing him from his sport, he told in his day, and he returned to promote him half a year ago, winner for the seventh time on the green. “I just needed time to clear the storm. Everything has been complicated, but my tennis has always been there”, explained the Balkan.

Recover lost time

The regulations prevented him from parading through New York, but in the final stretch of the season he put the turbo on: titles in Tel-Aviv, Astana and another notch in the Masters Cup, for the first time in Turin; 19 wins and only two losses from September to November. “It’s a great relief and a great satisfaction, because I’ve been all year between pins, waiting for permits,” he commented, knowing that the Australian Government had definitely withdrawn his three-year punishment and that he could play this Open that today gives him a standing ovation .

Idemooooooo!”, is heard over and over again in the reappearance of this Tuesday, which takes place to the beat of that come on! Serbian and among the heat of the first tier of the central, full of flags of his country, compatriots and countrymen shouting loudly, of the profuse Balkan community that resides in Melbourne –95,000 people, according to the 2021 census– and covers him for try to make up for lost time. Nole returns to his track, to the place where his game takes its maximum expression, exaggerated control of time, space and blow, millimeter precision in shots (part with a ace) and graceful when moving, as if he were sliding a centimeter above the concrete, on virtual skates. Carballés proposes a very dignified answer, but finds no hole. It’s not easy, of course. Little nothing or can do. The Spaniard shakes his head, there’s no way. Djokovic has won 83 matches here, he has only given up eight; The last one was in the round of 16 in 2018, when he was still suffering from his elbow and the South Korean Hyeon Chung went through him like lightning.

On this occasion, his right thigh hurts and the video marker focuses for a moment on the bandage. How far does the damage go? The fan wonders these days. Only he knows.

The one from Belgrade landed in Australia on December 27 and since then he has kept a low profile, trying to ingratiate himself with the country he tried to access in 2022 with a form dotted with irregularities, alleging that he had a (non-existent) exemption. The first stop on his return was Adelaida, where he added his 92nd trophy (the same as Nadal, also even in this) and left one of his pearls, by ordering his agent and his brother Marko that they leave the box in one of those cable junctions that he usually has from time to time; Later he traveled to Melbourne and during these days he has been giving away autographs and good gestures at the Open venue, in addition to participating in an exhibition and completing a training session with the public together with Daniil Medvedev. On both sides, of him and of the tournament, it was necessary to offer a friendly image.

The director, Craig Tiley, warned: “If they do [abuchearle] They will be kicked out.” So throughout the entire evening and at the pinnacle of 00.40 in the morning, the applause spreads, with a significant reduction in capacity in the stands because no matter how much Djokovic returns, tomorrow is a working day. The Serb, summoned in the second round against the winner of Delien-Couacaud, touches his heart and points to the sky; the roof actually, because the downpour has forced the closure. Here I am again, he comes to say. And in case there was any doubt about how the track would react, his track, he cheers: “No-le, No-le, No-le!”.


AC | Melbourne

Despite the fact that it was a designated day, Djokovic behaved in a neutral manner throughout the night, perhaps wanting to abstract himself from any emotional component that could disturb him during the match. He performed rigorously and as soon as he got into rhythm he exercised with an iron hand on a day that beyond the return, was an important physical test.

Last week he suffered a muscle mishap in Adelaide and since then he has been suffering from discomfort that has affected his training. Against Carballés, however, he offered no sign of discomfort or limited play. “The leg is fine, not perfect, but I hope to be getting to that point. It has been a good test. Honestly, these days I have not been able to work much. The most positive thing is that the longer the game lasted, the better I felt ”, he assessed.

The Serbian praised Carballés and noted that he appreciated “very much” the reception given to him by the Australian public, even though the colors of his country predominated in the stands. “I have felt welcome, especially by the Serbian community, which is very large and has welcomed me in an incredible way,” wanted to specify Nole, 35 years old; “I have felt a lot of support and a lot of love. I couldn’t imagine a better start.”

You can follow EL PAÍS Sports on Facebook Y Twitteror sign up here to receive our weekly newsletter.