Sun. Jul 14th, 2024

Novak Djokovic of Serbia speaks at a information convention in the course of the United Cup tennis match in Perth, Australia, Saturday, Dec. 30, 2023. (AP Picture/Trevor Collens)

Novak Djokovic known as Australia his “completely happy place” on Saturday as he ready to kick off his season on the United Cup with a difficult conflict in opposition to China’s fast-improving Zhang Zhizhen.

The world primary holds no grudges heading into the combined staff occasion practically two years after being refused entry to the nation over his stance on Covid-19 vaccinations.

“At all times felt like… (Australia) was my completely happy place the place I felt nice, apart from that state of affairs two years in the past the place clearly it wasn’t actually fulfilling,” he mentioned.

“However apart from that, I’ve at all times loved myself, performed one of the best tennis, and so my emotions coming into Australia this 12 months are actually constructive.”

The 36-year-old mentioned he’s wanting ahead to going through the 58th-ranked Zhang in Sunday’s group tie in Perth.

Djokovic is concentrating on a report eleventh Australian Open title subsequent month, however his focus for now’s on Zhang, vowing to offer “at all times 100%”.

China laid down a marker on Saturday with a defeat of the Czech Republic, which featured Wimbledon champion Marketa Vondrousova.

“I by no means confronted Zhang,” he mentioned. “I believe he now might be essentially the most profitable Chinese language male participant of all time.

“That’s nice, as properly, as a result of we wish to see the boys’s tennis in China choosing up. They’re a powerful staff, very robust staff.”

However the 24-time Grand Slam winner warned: “Hopefully I can begin the brand new season with a win.”

The Serbs, skilled by former participant and Djokovic buddy Viktor Troicki, have been within the metropolis for a number of days attempting to acclimatise.

“Australia shouldn’t be actually across the nook for us Europeans, so we’d like a bit little bit of time to get used to the time distinction,” mentioned Djokovic.

“Clearly completely different situations right here than another place the place I skilled or performed an exhibition just lately.

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“China had a clear sweep in the present day,” he added. “There’s a giant Chinese language group right here and in addition Serbian group, so hopefully we are able to really feel the vitality within the stands and assist for each nations.”

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