Novak Djokovic warmed up for the Australian Open with a win at the Adelaide ATP 250 event on Sunday, yet tennis legend John McEnroe believes he will be harboring some bitterness ahead of the first major of 2023.
Djokovic was deported from Australia last year after government officials declared he was a threat to the nation following his refusal to take a Covid-19 vaccine.
Now he is back in Australia and received a warm reception from fans as he played his first matches in Adelaide last week.
Yet despite the positive start to his latest visit to the country, former Grand Slam champion McEnroe believes the painful memories of his embarrassing deportation will linger.
Speaking to Eurosport, McEnroe suggests the memories of what Djokovic went through a year ago cannot be erased and it will be in his mind as he returns to Melbourne.
“There is going to sort of be a bit of bitterness, I believe, and he has got to get through that,” McEnroe told Eurosport’s Reem Abulleil.
“I think he can get through that, he’s obviously proven that he has gone through some unbelievably difficult obstacles, none more so than the last 12 months of his career.
“The fact that he was still able to go out and win Wimbledon and go out and play these smaller events in the fall to get his ranking high enough so that he can go and win the event in Turin and the year-end event, and embrace playing and competing, was just incredible because it would have been very easy to be frustrated and angry.
“I can only imagine how he felt when he was deported out of Australia and subsequently dealing with that.
“I don’t think he was right until Wimbledon, but somehow he found it, and again, so few players will ever be able to do.
“There is a reason why these guys … I used to think, ‘I won seven singles majors’, and now I’m like, ‘oh my god, these guys are at 22 or 21’ or whatever the hell it is.
“You are like, ‘man, I should have tried harder or done something’. They make you think you didn’t do nearly enough and that’s a credit to them.”
Djokovic admits he will never forget what happened to him in Australia last year, but he is eager to move on.
“You can’t forget those events,” Djokovic said.
“It’s one of these things that sticks with you, it stays with you for I guess the rest of your life.
“It was something that I’ve never experienced before, and hopefully never again
“I have to move on. Coming back to Australia speaks how I feel about this country, how I feel about playing here.”
Djokovic will practice in Melbourne this week ahead of the Australian Open, but his vaccine problems are not at an end.
He looks set to miss the Indian Wells and Miami Open ATP 1000 event in Match after the US government confirmed they will continue to insist on Covid vaccine verification for all overseas visitors to the country until April at the earliest.
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