Novak Djokovic has declared his victory at the Adelaide International marks his best preparation for an Australian Open yet, after mowing through a series of high-ranked opponents. The Serbian star, in Australia for the first time since having his visa revoked in 2022, also shook off a minor hamstring complaint on his way to his triumph in the Adelaide final.
The 35-year-old said he'd played 'five great matches' in the tournament, knocking off the likes of Denis Shapovalov (World No.18), Daniil Medvedev (No.7), as well as Sebastian Korda (No.33) in the final. He also had kind words for second round opponent Quentin Halys, after the French world No.64 pushed him to two tiebreakers to win their contest.
The final against Korda represented Djokovic's most difficult test of the Australian summer thus far, with the 22-year-old American winning the first set via tiebreak and forcing another in the second set. Djokovic, determined to add to his nine Australian Open titles, managed to get the upper hand in the second set and held it in the third to claim a 6-7 (8-10) 7-6 (7-3) 6-4 victory.
With a week of practice ahead for the Djokovic, with the possibility of a surprise friendly against nemesis turned friendly rival Nick Kyrgios on the cards, the Serbian said he was feeling good ahead of his tilt at a 22nd grand slam victory. He told reporters he couldn't have hoped for a better start to his visit to Australia.
"Absolutely. Five great matches," Djokovic said. "The second round it was 7-6, 7-6 - tough two tiebreakers against (Quentin) Halys, who is playing very well.
"Then I had (Denis) Shapovalov, (Daniil) Medvedev and Korda, who is on fire, playing some high-level tennis, striking the ball amazingly. I couldn't ask for a better preparation and lead-up to Australian Open.
"I have a week off for recovery now and working on specific things in terms of my game, my body, getting my mind in the right state for the best-of-five and two long weeks hopefully."
The only hiccup Djokovic faced last week was a hamstring scare in his semi-final win over Medvedev. He revealed he'd worked "deep into the night" with his physio after the match and was able to shake off the niggle in time for the final the following day.
Novak Djokovic comfortable in Australia as fans embrace return
Djokovic's winning start to 2023 is a far cry from the circus that erupted following his arrival in the country 12 months ago. With Australia in the midst of pushing to vaccinate as many people as possible against COVID-19 at the time, Djokovic's refusal to do so, as well as his failure to obtain a valid exemption from being vaccinated, eventually saw him deported from the country after a brief stint in immigration detention.
The federal government has since abandoned rules requiring overseas visitors to be vaccinated against the virus, paving the way for Djokovic to return. While his arrival sparked a major controversy in 2022, Djokovic said he'd been made welcome by fans on his return.
"I don't hold any grudges," he said. "I told you I had far many more positive experiences in Australia to throw that away just because of what happened last year.
"I feel very comfortable with people, normal people, that follow sport, that I encounter on an everyday basis. "I haven't had any negative experience so far. So every person that I met, whether it's in the city or in the woods - I actually met a few kangaroos as well, had a chat with them - everyone was very kind, very supportive. So there is no reason for me to feel differently than what I'm receiving from them."
Korda turned in an impressive performance against the World No.5, and was bitterly disappointed not to have converted on a championship point he earned during the second set tiebreak. Tightening up late in the third and deciding was really the only blemish on Korda's performance.
"I wish we could have gotten it done today, but there's a long way to go and there were a lot of positives," Korda said.
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