Nine-time Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic will have a tougher time in the 2023 edition according to Serena Williams’ former coach Patrick Mouratoglou.
The 52-year-old coach, who guided Williams to her sixth and seventh Australian Open titles and currently coaches rising star Holger Rune, said Djokovic’s ’emotional baggage’ from the deportation drama would be difficult to deal with.
The 35-year-old Serb superstar was exiled in January last year, and had to miss the tournament, following intervention from the Australian government, which said the fact that he had not been vaccinated and was a known ‘anti-vaxxer’ meant that he could pose a danger. in the community.
Novak Djokovic waves to the crowd after winning his first match at the Adelaide International on Tuesday
It was a protracted saga lasting nearly two weeks, during which Djokovic spent time in an immigration detention center in Melbourne that refugees at the time dubbed ‘a torture prison’.
Mouratoglou said the experience would certainly bite some of the scars in the mind of the 21-time Grand Slam champion as he looks to justify his $2.50 (TAB.com.au) favorite for the title.
Serena Williams’ (left) former coach Patrick Mouratoglou (right), who guided the US superstar to two Australian Open titles, says if Djokovic is to win Down Under this year she will have to overcome some tough mental issues demons.
‘It will be difficult for Novak in Australia, that’s for sure,’ he told Eurosport.
‘He’s going to carry a lot of emotional baggage. He has been through a lot, emotionally speaking. No one is immune … it’s going to be tough.’
For his part, Djokovic, who is currently in South Australia for the Adelaide International, is eager to recall all the good times he has enjoyed in Australia since first winning the Open in 2008.
Novak Djokovic was removed from an immigration detention facility in Melbourne in January 2022 after his visa was cancelled.
The unvaccinated Djokovic arrived in Australia, and after a saga that lasted nearly two weeks was deported for endangering public health and safety, according to the government.
‘What happened to me 12 months ago was not easy for me or my family or team … you can’t forget those events. It’s something I’ve never experienced before and hopefully never again,’ he told reporters upon arrival in Australia last week.
‘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.
‘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 went in with positive emotions,’ Djokovic said before a training session in Adelaide.
While acknowledging that getting over last year’s traumatic experience, and having to miss subsequent tournaments due to his vaccination status, is easier said than done, Mouratoglou said there are certainly some elements of preparation in Djokovic’s favour.
‘It’s the pre-season, it’s the off-season and there’s no stress of competition. So he (Djokovic) will be emotionally resting, which is good,’ he said.
‘And then he won’t start directly at the Australian Open, so he’ll have time to get used to the environment there.’
Novak Djokovic celebrates after comfortably accounting for Constant Lestienne at the Adelaide International on Tuesday
Djokovic looked calm, relaxed and focused in Adelaide, beating Constant Lestienne 6-3, 6-2 in his first singles match of the tournament.
He and best partner Vasek Pospisil went down in the doubles in a tiebreaker, but the Serb clearly got exactly what he needed from the encounter.
There were concerns that he might not have been well received by the public after last year’s vaccination drama, but his reception in Adelaide proved those concerns were misplaced, for now.
Scores of fans lined up just to catch a glimpse of the superstar, lovingly chanting his name and holding up signs, and Djokovic was incredibly accommodating – as always – with all manner of fan requests, selfies and autograph.
Novak Djokovic was a hit with fans in Adelaide, and was seen taking photo after photo with smitten fans of all ages
Children and adults alike line the stands at the Memorial Drive Tennis Center to get an autograph from the Serbian star
Djokovic happily complied with fans’ overwhelming requests, proving that fears about how he would be received in Australia, at least in South Australia, were misplaced
As he builds up to the January 16 start date for the Open, those waters will be tested in the city where the deportation drama unfolded.
Fortunately, there appears to be almost no hint of anger in the nine-time champion and affable jokester, who has always been a fan favorite.
If Djokovic can justify his massive betting favor and take the title, he will tie fellow ‘Big Three’ member Rafael Nadal for the most Grand Slam singles titles in history: 22.
He next takes to the court on Thursday, where he will face Frenchman Quentin Halys in the round of 16 at the Memorial Drive Tennis Center in the shadow of the Adelaide Oval.