Tennis: Djokovic eager for Dubai comeback after vaccine controversy

AFP , Thursday 17 Feb 2022

World number one Novak Djokovic said he has missed playing tennis on Thursday as he prepares for his comeback in Dubai after the coronavirus vaccine row that kept him from defending his Australian Open title.

Novak Djokovic
Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic visits the Serbian pavilion before a presentation of the Novak Djokovic Foundation at Dubai Expo 2020, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Thursday, Feb. 17, 2022. AP

The Serb, who was deported from Australia over his vaccination status, toured the Serbian pavilion at Dubai Expo, removing his black mask when requested and writing a long message in the visitors' book.

"I am excited to go back and play on Monday," he said, referring to the Dubai ATP tournament during brief remarks to media. "I miss tennis after all that has happened."

The 20-time Grand Slam-winner has kept a low profile since his deportation last month over his potentially career-changing decision not to take the coronavirus vaccine.

Spanish rival Rafael Nadal won the Australian Open in Melbourne to become the first player to win 21 major titles, one ahead of Djokovic and Roger Federer.

This week, Djokovic told the BBC he was not anti-vaccination but that he was prepared to miss more major tournaments over his refusal to get jabbed.

"Yes, that is the price that I'm willing to pay," he said.

"I was prepared not to go to Australia. I understand not being vaccinated today, I am unable to travel to most of the tournaments at the moment," Djokovic added.

A coronavirus vaccine is not a requirement to enter the United Arab Emirates, which announced 895 new cases on Thursday.

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