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'I will never forget': Novak Djokovic reveals the Australian detention centre still haunts him

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'I will never forget': Novak Djokovic reveals the Australian detention centre still haunts him

‘I will NEVER forget’: Novak Djokovic says his five nights in a detention center still haunt him as he returns for the Australian Open a year on from his deportation scandal

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

Novak Djokovic has revealed that the five nights he spent in an Australian detention center 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 will only be able to play after his three-year visa ban is lifted.

Speaking for the first time since arriving Down Under for the first Grand Slam of 2023, Djokovic said: ‘You never forget those events. It was something I had never experienced before and hopefully never will again but it was an important life experience for me and something that will stay there. But I have to move on.’

Novak Djokovic has spoken about his experiences being held in an Australian detention center

Novak Djokovic has spoken about his experiences being held in an Australian detention center

Despite his massive trophy haul, the 35-year-old showed nervousness while speaking 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 starts on January 16.

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‘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 shooting with his friend Vasek Pospisil for an hour, Djokovic addressed the press on court.

Ask gently. Not once did the words ‘anti-vax’ or ‘deportation’ appear in either press or player. At the end Djokovic took a selfie with a boy who got through.

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

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

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

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

‘Melbourne is close to my heart. It’s not easy for me to digest what happened but I have to move on and those events cannot replace what I had in Melbourne and Australia. So I go in with positive emotions.’

The Serb is back on court in Australia preparing to compete in the first Slam of 2023

The Serb is back on court in Australia preparing 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 aim is to peak in Melbourne. Every big tournament is a possibility to make history. I don’t lack inspiration or motivation.’

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

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