Djokovic is welcomed enthusiastically upon his return to the Australian Open

After a rousing welcome on his return to Melbourne Park on Friday and before taking on Nick Kyrgios in a sold-out exhibition match at the Australian Open, Novak Djokovic was “a little emotional.”

Prior to the first Grand Slam of the year on Monday, all 15,000 seats at Rod Laver Arena were sold out in 58 minutes with all revenues going to charity.

When Djokovic, who was deported a year ago, went on to win a warm-up match in Adelaide last week, he had a warm welcome. At Rod Laver Arena, where he is a nine-time champion, it was the same scenario.

I really appreciate it. The former world number one from Serbia acknowledged the fans after being welcomed on court to cheers and clapping, “I feel a bit emotional right now to be honest”.

Since his first victory at the Australian Open in 2008, Djokovic has dominated the competition; however, due to his views on Covid vaccinations, his visa was rejected a year ago, and he was deported the day before the tournament.

The 35-year-old, one of the greatest men’s tennis players of all time, said, “I was really looking forward to coming back to this court, so thank you to you people for coming out tonight for a great cause.”

Djokovic, who last week had to withdraw from a practise match against Daniil Medvedev due to a left hamstring problem, donned tape during a lighthearted match versus Australia’s Kyrgios.

However, he showed no signs of difficulty in his movement against Kyrgios and stated in beforehand that he was “feeling good.” Concerns about an ankle issue that has impeded his preparations were also allayed by Kyrgios.

Before the friendly match’s tiebreak, which also featured wheelchair players David Wagner and Heath Davidson, they each won one of the shorter sets.

However, it has significantly warmed when Kyrgios emerged as one of the few athletes to openly support Djokovic during his vain attempt to avoid deportation in January 2022.

Djokovic won in four sets for his 21st Grand Slam when they faced off in the Wimbledon final the previous year.

When he starts his campaign against 75th-ranked Spaniard Roberto Carballes Baena, he is the heavy favourite to win the Melbourne title once more.

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