‘Positive’ Novak Djokovic holds no grudge against Australia

Novak Djokovic still has plenty of love for the country that deported him, saying he holds no grudges against Australia after being welcomed back with open arms.

Djokovic booked a spot in the second round of the Adelaide International 1 on Tuesday with a thumping 6-3 6-2 win over Frenchman Constant Lestienne.

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 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 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 after 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 has won nine of his 21 grand slam trophies.

As for the events of 12 months ago when he was locked up in a detention centre before being deported?

“What you focus on, you become. If I focus on the negatives, that’s what I’ll attract, so I don’t want to do that. I don’t hold a grudge,” Djokovic said.

“I am here to play tennis, to enjoy sports and spread good energy.

“To see the packed house for my first match was definitely a very pleasant surprise, and lots of support, lots of love.

“Every experience and every day that I had so far my visit this year was positive.

“The people that I encountered on the beach or in restaurants or wherever I was kind of roaming around … everybody was very welcoming.”

Djokovic’s arrival in Australia was much smoother this time around compared with last year.

“Well, I kind of was joking around with my team hoping that I can enter Australia this time, and that’s what happened,” he said.

“It was really, I would say, normal. As with any other year coming into Australia except the last year, easy through the passport control, landed well.

“All was great. Got picked up by official transportation and got to the hotel and moved on with my day.”

Tuesday’s win sets up a round-of-16 clash with another Frenchman, Quentin Halys, who defeated Australian Jordan Thompson in straight sets on Monday.

Djokovic lost just five points on serve during the opening set against Lestienne, 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 racquet into the court after losing a net battle against Djokovic, and his body language worsened the longer the match went on.

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