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Daily Mirror
Daily Mirror
Fraser Watson

Novak Djokovic branded "person of principle" and backed to win 10th Australian Open

Novak Djokovic has been tipped to triumph at the 2023 Australian Open following the explosive visa saga that scuppered his bid this year.

In what proved a volatile episode, the Serbian star was initially granted a medical exemption to compete in Melbourne, despite not being vaccinated against Covid. However, he was detained upon his arrival down under, and a bitter legal battle ensued with Djokovic eventually deported home just a day before the tournament began.

The 21-time Grand Slam winner has since refused to alter his defiant stance on Covid though, and also missed the US Open over his reluctance to be jabbed. But having initially been handed a three-year ban from trying to visit Australia, a climbdown from the immigration authorities means he will now compete in the first Slam of 2023.

And Aussie doubles great Paul McNamee has welcomed the return of the man who has previously triumphed nine times at Melbourne Park: “He was the best player going in [last summer] and, on form, he is still the best player, especially on hard court, so he deserves to be favourite,” he told The Age .

"I think winning 10 has a special ring to it. The only other man who’s won 10 [at a Grand Slam event] is Rafa [Nadal] at the French, so I think he’ll be going hard to get a 10th Australian Open, especially after last year I’m hoping he can get it.

"For me, he’s a person of principle. Not everyone agrees with what his position is, but he stands by his word and missed two Grand Slams this year. That’s a lot to miss when you’re one off winning the most Grand Slams, so I respect it and I hope he is well received.”

Djokovic was deported home a day before the tournament began this year (Getty Images)

In the absence of Djokovic, it was Rafa Nadal who prevailed this year, coming back from two sets down to beat Daniil Medvedev in a thrilling final. That also saw him become the first player in history to reach 21 Slam wins, a number he increased by also winning at the French Open.

Djokovic hit back by winning Wimbledon, and finished the season in good form by taking the title at the ATP Finals. And in Turin, he reflected on the most turbulent and controversial campaign of his distinguished career.

"So this victory is even bigger as I said, considering the circumstances that my team, my family and I have been through, but I felt I was not alone," he told reporters. "I felt big support from my people, from Serbia, from the region. It was just a matter of time before I would find that balance and optimal strength in my game in order to really peak and start playing the best tennis I possibly can."

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