Djokovic ready to play ‘better than ever’

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Novak Djokovic trains at the Rod Laver Arena. (Photo by Recep Sakar/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Novak Djokovic said he was ready to “play better than ever” on the eve of his return to tennis, a month after he was kicked out of Australia over Covid-19 vaccination issues.

The 34-year-old admitted the fiasco may have left its scars but he is aiming for glory again.

“I can’t say that things will be the same when I return to the pitch… but there is an additional reason to play better than ever,” he told Serbian public broadcaster RTS on Thursday.

The world number one has shown his ambition to play in major tournaments, while admitting that his participation does not depend solely on him.

“It will depend on the countries where the tournaments will take place, I will be ready and I will want to continue my career,” Djokovic said.

The Serb also admitted that he has his sights set on the Paris Olympics in 2024, with an ambition for the only major title he has yet to win.

“I want, I am preparing and I plan to participate in the Paris Olympics and represent Serbia,” he said.

Djokovic’s wishes could once again collide with the rules as most countries force athletes to get vaccinated, but his stance on receiving the vaccine hasn’t changed yet.

“As a professional athlete, I check everything that enters my body and how it affects me. If something changes by half a percent, I feel it,” he said.

Djokovic, however, again dismissed accusations of opposing vaccines.

“I don’t like to be associated with certain initiatives or communities. I never said I belonged to an initiative,” he said.

“I keep an open mind… Everything is possible in life, we will see how the situation will evolve, but at the time I decided not to do it (get vaccinated)”.

Djokovic said he received a ‘supportive’ text message from Daniil Medvedev just 45 minutes after the Russian lost the Australian Open final to Rafael Nadal last month.

Nadal won a record 21st Grand Slam title to break the tie with Djokovic and Roger Federer.

The Serb added that he appreciated the support he received from several players during his detention in Australia, pointing in particular to the unusual solidarity of a man with whom he usually exchanged insults.

“(Nick) Kyrgios surprised me the most because we had our misunderstandings in the past,” Djokovic said.

“I thanked him and other players who supported me – Medvedev, (Alexander) Zverev and many players like Alize Cornet”.

The Serb is taking part in the ATP 500 tournament in Dubai, which will be held from Monday in the wealthy Gulf emirate, where the Covid vaccine is not compulsory.

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