Novak Djokovic admits Australian detention centre haunts him

‘I will NEVER forget’: Novak Djokovic says he’s still haunted by his five nights in an Australian detention centre as he returns for the Aussie Open a year on from his deportation scandal

  • Novak Djokovic admits he’ll never forget his deportation drama in January 
  • The Serb was detained for entering Australia without having a Covid vaccine 
  • He spent five nights in a Australian detention centre before being deported 
  • Djokovic is able to play in Melbourne after having his three-year visa ban lifted 

Novak Djokovic revealed that the five nights he spent in an Australian detention centre in January will stay with him for the rest of his life.

The Serb, who was detained for entering the country without being vaccinated against Covid, is aiming for a 10th Australian Open singles title in Melbourne next month and is only able to play after having his three-year visa ban lifted.

Speaking for the first time since his arrival Down Under for the first Grand Slam of 2023, Djokovic said: ‘You can’t forget those events. It’s something I have never experienced before and hopefully never again but it is a valuable life experience for me and something that will stay there. But I have to move on.’

Novak Djokovic has spoken of his experiences of being held in an Australian detention centre

Despite his immense trophy haul, the 35-year-old appeared nervous as he spoke in South Australia. He is here in temperatures of around 40°C to play in the Adelaide International, a warm-up event for the Australian Open which begins on January 16.

‘I am hoping everything is going to be positive,’ he added of his reception by fans. ‘But it’s not something I can predict.’

Nerves aside, his PR was exemplary. After hitting with his friend Vasek Pospisil for an hour, Djokovic addressed the press on court.

The questioning was gentle. Not once did the words ‘anti-vax’ or ‘deportation’ come forth from either press or player. At the end Djokovic posed for a selfie with a young boy who had sneaked in.

Djokovic was held for five nights after entering Australia in January without having had a Covid vaccination and was then deported  

‘What happened to me 12 months ago was not easy for me or my family or team,’ he added. ‘It was disappointing to leave the country like that but I was really hoping to get permission to play back in Australia. It’s a country where I have had tremendous support. I have always played my best tennis here.’

Djokovic, who would equal Rafael Nadal’s tally of 22 Grand Slam singles titles by landing the title in Melbourne, insisted January’s forced removal from Australia — which his father compared to the persecution of Jesus Christ — had not changed his view of everyday Australians.

‘Melbourne is close to my heart. What happened was not easy for me to digest but I had to move on and those circumstances will not replace what I have had in Melbourne and Australia. So I come in with positive emotions.’

The Serb was back on court in Australia getting ready to compete in the first Slam of 2023 

Djokovic was among the first to arrive in Adelaide this week. He will not play until Monday in an event with a strong field including Daniil Medvedev, Felix Auger- Aliassime and Andy Murray. He said: ‘The goal is to peak in Melbourne. Every big tournament is a possibility to make history. I don’t lack inspiration or motivation.’

Asked what he will do while in Adelaide, he said he would have a ‘swim in the ocean’ — which is not recommended, as Adelaide is the home of the great white shark — before returning quickly to tennis.

‘I love tennis,’ he added. ‘As long as I have the motivation and inspiration to play at the highest level, I’ll be here.’

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