Novak Djokovic says he holds no grudges regarding his deportation from Australia last year, insisting he still has plenty of love for Australia after receiving a warm reception in Adelaide on Tuesday.
Djokovic booked a spot in the second round of the Adelaide International 1 with a thumping 6-3 6-2 win over Frenchman Constant Lestienne on Tuesday.
It was his first singles match in Australia since being deported last January for refusing to have the COVID-19 vaccine.
The 21-time grand slam champion received a rousing reception when he stepped out on court on Tuesday, and he didn’t disappoint his adoring fans.
Djokovic’s power, court speed, and deft work at the net proved too much to handle for Lestienne, with the match lasting just 74 minutes.
The world No.5, who lost his low-key doubles match on Monday, repeatedly touched his heart before signalling to the crowd and the sky upon winning his singles match.
He also kissed his hand and touched the court, later saying he was delighted to be back in the country where he’s won nine of his 21 grand slam trophies.
‘Well look, 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.
‘If I have to pick one country where I’ve had the most success, which treated me in the best way in terms of tennis, it’s here, definitely.
‘Even the circumstances last year, it wasn’t easy for anybody. But I’m just happy to be here focusing on tennis, and enjoying my time with you guys.’
The result sets up a round of 16 clash with Frenchman Quentin Halys, who defeated Australian Jordan Thompson in straight sets on Monday.
Djokovic lost just five points on serve during the opening set, but did have to save a break point in the fifth game.
The 35-year-old took the opening set in 38 minutes, and raced to a 4-0 lead in the second as Lestienne’s frustrations started to boil over.
The Frenchman slammed his racket into the court after losing a net battle against Djokovic, and his body language slumped the longer the match went on.
‘For the first match, I can’t complain,’ Djokovic said.
‘I played very well. I thought the first six games were very competitive.
‘But once I made that break, I felt like I stepped it up one or two levels and played really good tennis.