in 2023, the end of the roller coaster for Novak Djokovic?

There are pictures that we do not forget. Masked Novak Djokovic escorted to his place on flight EK 409 to Dubai, has traveled the world. It was 16 January 2022, the Serb leaving Melbourne eleven days after arriving on Australian soil as the Australian Open begins the following day.

“What happened deserves to be made into a movie”, summarizes former French player Nathalie Dechy. Let’s back off. It all started with a photo posted by the Serb, all smiles beside his luggage before his departure for Australia. Not being vaccinated against Covid-19, he announced that he had obtained a reduction that would allow him to circumvent the then mandatory vaccinations. This shallow post on Instagram, however, does burn the powder: did the player, then world number one, benefit from a free pass? Expected by the border police on his arrival, he justified his release with a recent positive control, but the authorities deemed that the evidence was insufficient and revoked his visa. The decision, which was eventually confirmed by a federal court, expelled him from the country.

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A year after this mess, Novak Djokovic is back in Melbourne (he faces, on Tuesday 17 January, Spaniard Roberto Carballes, 75e world player) and, this time, for sporting reasons all eyes will be on him. “He will be eager to bounce back from last year’s humiliation, thought Nathalie Dechy. He arrived early in Australia and played a prep tournament, it shows he is highly motivated. » The extraordinary scene in front of the Park Hotel in Melbourne, where he was detained, was replaced by public applause on Adelaide’s blue court, where he won 92e his career tournament, Sunday January 8, equaled rival Rafael Nadal.

History can repeat itself

Early, for him, to return to normal? One win away from reaching calendar Grand Slams in 2021 – after winning the first three majors of the year he lost in the US Open final – “Djoker” saw his plans thwarted by his refusal to be vaccinated against Covid-19. “It’s a roller coaster”he acknowledged his 2022 season.

Deprived of all tournaments in the Americas (four Masters 1000 – the most prestigious tournament category after the Grand Slam – and the US Open), forfeited points for his title at Wimbledon – the Russians and Belarusians, they were excluded because of the war in Ukraine –, Serbia, however “driven by the race for records”, as Arnaud Di Pasquale reminds us, losing big. “Are you willing to give up the chance to become the greatest player to ever wield a racket? »had asked a British journalist during an interview with the BBC, in February 2022. “Yes, that’s the price I’m willing to pay”he replied, insisting not to “against vaccination” but have “always support the freedom to choose what you put in your body”.

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Having only played eleven tournaments last year, Novak Djokovic was almost a part-timer. “What he has done, with what he has gone through, is incredible. He replied that he was present whenever pressure might be more important. He wants to show that he is the best.”, comments Arnaud Di Pasquale. With seven finals for five titles, including the Grand Slam, the Masters at the end of the year and the Masters 1000 in Rome, the Serb has shown great efficiency.

But in 2023 history could repeat itself. Because of his faith, the 35-year-old player had to sit out again on this year’s American tour, due to lack of vaccinations. “He’s probably having the hardest timebelieves Tatiana Golovin, former French player turned consultant for BeIN Sports. There, he expects it and it should be easier to manage with last year’s experience. Things are always more complicated for him, but he writes a different story than other players. »

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