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Daily Mirror
Daily Mirror
Ben Parsons

Novak Djokovic makes feelings clear over return to Australia after visa debacle

Novak Djokovic has returned Down Under with no bad blood as he prepares for his tilt at a tenth Australian Open crown.

Djokovic will compete at his most successful Grand Slam at Melbourne Park this month, a year on from the visa saga that placed him at the centre of a global media storm.

The Serbian legend, unvaccinated against Covid, was deported on the eve of the tournament 12 months ago and issued with an initial three-year ban from the country following the debacle..

But Djokovic was relieved to have his ban from Australia lifted in November and he is favourite to equal Rafael Nadal's record of 22 Grand Slam wins with victory in the first major of the year.

And the world No.5, still the player to beat in men's tennis despite missing two Grand Slams in 2022, is holding no grudges as he targets a perfect tenth title in Melbourne.

"I can say it was different coming into Australia this year than any other year, certainly because of the events 12 months ago," Djokovic said.

"But at the same time – 12 months is quite a long time as well. Already it's behind me, I've moved on, I'm looking forward to (what is to) come because I always play very well and probably my best tennis throughout my career (has been) on Australian soil.

"I'm glad to be back in Australia. Thank you all for coming out today. Thank you for giving me the welcome that I could only wish for. Over the years, Australia has been the place where I've played my best tennis, without a doubt."

Djokovic's visa saga gripped the sporting world 12 months ago (Getty Images)

Djokovic received a warm reception as he kicked off his singles season by cruising to a 6-3 6-2 victory over France’s Constant Lestienne in a warm-up tournament in Adelaide.

But while the 35-year-old has made it clear he wants to move forward, he admitted last week that the travails of last year's deportation debacle has left an indelible mark on his life.

"You can't forget those events, it's one of those things that stick with you," he said. "It stays with you for the rest of your life. It's something I've never experienced before and hopefully never again, but it is a valuable life experience for me."

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