Novak Djokovic returns to America for first time since US Open fallout ahead of the Cincinnati Open and says: ‘I was very much looking forward to coming’
- Djokovic was denied entry to the US last year over his Covid-19 vaccine refusal
- But the world No 2 has now returned to gear up for the US Open later this month
- DailyMail.com provides all the latest international sports news
By Oliver Salt For Dailymail.Com
Published: | Updated:
After a two-year absence, Novak Djokovic is finally back in the US as the world No 2 gears up for this week’s Cincinnati Open.
Djokovic was denied entry to America for last year’s US Open over his refusal to take the Covid-19 vaccine, with non-citizens required to show full vaccination status to enter the country at that time.
The three-time US champion was willing to drop out of the final Grand Slam of the year to stick to his principles, a decision which helped Spanish sensation Carlos Alcaraz eventually cruise to glory at Flushing Meadows.
Though with Covid-19 restrictions now more relaxed across the globe, Djokovic has been able to return to the States for both the US Open and this week’s warmup in Cincinnati.
He received a hero’s welcome back to the country on Monday as standing-room-only crowds gathered to watch his practice session in Mason, two days before his opening match in the round of 32.
Novak Djokovic says it is a ‘pleasure and honor’ to be back in America after two-year absence
Djokovic was denied entry to the US last year over his refusal to take the Covid-19 vaccine
W&S @WLWT: After publicly thanking his American fans earlier today, Novak Djokovic signs autographs for over 20 minutes following his practice session.
🇷🇸 The 🐐 is back. 🇺🇸 pic.twitter.com/P7gOTBSpBz
— Charlie Clifford (@char_cliff) August 13, 2023
And after being afforded a warm reception by fans, Djokovic insisted it was a ‘pleasure and honor’ to have returned to America.
‘It’s been two years since I was last in America, so of course I’m excited and was very much looking forward to coming,’ he said.
‘I haven’t been in Cincinatti since 2019, so nice to be back. Lots of young fans I have seen the last couple of days on the practice courts, which is always great to see.
‘People love their tennis, and for me as a player of course it’s always a pleasure and honor and fun to be out there and receive that much support and that much attention. So I look forward to competing this weekend.’
Djokovic was so taken aback by the level of support, in fact, that he asked his coach whether they were at the right court for his practice session.
He added in an ATP Tour interview: ‘It was amazing, to be honest. I made a joke with my coach, and I asked him whether we are [at] the right court because we thought it [was] a match. He actually said he thought it was a match happening because it [was] a match court.
‘It’s really amazing. I’m very grateful for the presence of so many people at a practice session, which is amazing. Again, I did experience some tournaments throughout the world, similar atmospheres in terms of the great attendance on the practice courts.
The Serbian will be looking to bounce back from his Wimbledon final defeat by Carlos Alcaraz
‘People were really into it. As I mentioned before, lots of young fans, which is always something I wish to see. That gives me even more inspiration to play my best tennis in the tournament.’
Djokovic will take on either Spain’s Alejandro Davidovich Fokina or Argentina’s Tomas Martin Etcheverry in the round of 32, with the aforementioned pair set to contest their opening match on Tuesday.
Alcaraz, who got the better of Djokovic in an enthralling Wimbledon final last month, has also arrived in Cincinnati ahead of his own round of 32 match this week.
The current world No 1 will face either US star John Isner or Australia’s Jordan Thompson.