Novak Djokovic made his long-awaited return at the Australian Open on Rod Laver Arena on Tuesday, but the opening set wasn't without drama after the nine-time champ left court in a moment of confusion. Djokovic received a warm reception upon his return to Melbourne Park as he defeated unseeded Spanish opponent Roberto Carballes Baena 6-3, 6-4, 6-0.
However, there was some confusion in just the 25th minute of the match when Djokovic ran off court. Djokovic was up 3-2 on serve when he tried to grab the attention of the chair umpire for a bathroom break.
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"Hello, hello, hello, I need to go to the toilet," Djokovic said. The chair umpire's response was inaudible, but Djokovic appeared exasperated before he ran off down the tunnel.
"He needs to go to the toilet after five games?" commentator John Fitzgerald said.
Commentator Mark Woodforde was also left confused: "Well I think he has actually just pulled rank there as well. I think the official was trying to pull him back."
The chair umpire contacted officials through the radio and told them to warn Djokovic she was calling time in 15 seconds. "He's gone off without permission it seems," Fitzgerald continued.
Regardless, Djokovic made it back on time for start of play. No time penalty was handed out as Djokovic was ready for the start of play. While the bathroom break was more bizarre than it was controversial, fans were quick to share a laugh at the unusual moment.
— Wide World of Sports (@wwos) January 17, 2023
Djokovic holds from 0-40 for 3-2, then runs off for what seems to have been quite an urgent bathroom break.
The umpire calls time before he's back on court, but he makes it back to the baseline without a time violation.
— The Tennis Podcast (@TennisPodcast) January 17, 2023
Boss move. He was gone 15 seconds and he was within time, haters gonna hate.
— Tennis the Menace (@LoveAsInZero) January 17, 2023
Djokovic goes to the toilet after 5 games... 25 minutes...
It seemed urgent...😂😂😂
— Tennistonic (@tennistonic) January 17, 2023
That was the shortest toilet break ever, wasn’t it? #Djokovic
— Clay (@_claymagazine) January 17, 2023
Novak Djokovic receives warm reception at Australian Open
Djokovic's return to Rod Laver Arena was a triumphant one and fans stayed past 12.30am local time to cheer on the nine-time Australian Open champion.
During the match, chants of 'Novak' erupted in the second set. Fans stuck around to hear Djokovic speak and he was nothing but thankful for the locals that stayed upon his return.
"Unbelievable atmosphere, thank you for staying late everybody. And thank you for giving me such a welcoming reception, which I can only dream of," Djokovic said in his post-match interview.
"I am very happy to be back in Australia and back here on the court, where I've had the most success in my career. This court is the most special court in my life."
Most importantly for Djokovic, he was able to escape the match without further injuring his worrisome hamstring. "I was kind of testing my leg a little bit. At the beginning I was a bit tight, mentally as well, to protect something that was bothering me last 10 days," he said. The leg is good. It's not ideal, but it's getting there. Today was a really good test."
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