Novak Djokovic's controversy-plagued year has taken another turn for the worse, with tennis fans criticising his decision to play at this week's Tel Aviv Open in Israel.
The 21-time grand slam champion hasn't played an official ATP tournament since winning Wimbledon in July, however he did play at the Laver Cup last weekend in Roger Federer's farewell event.
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Djokovic will make his return to ATP competition in Tel Aviv this week, where he will play singles as well as doubles alongside Israeli veteran Jonathan Erlich.
Djokovic is teaming up with Elrich for the final event of the 45-year-old's career, having won the only doubles title of his career with the Israeli player at Queen's Club in 2010.
The Tel Aviv Open hasn't been part of the ATP calendar since 1996, but was brought back by the men's governing body this year after the cancellation of the Chinese swing.
Tel Aviv held an ATP event from 1978 to 1981 and 1983 to 1996, and will make its return this year after a 26-year hiatus.
However Djokovic's decision to play at the ATP 250 event has sparked backlash from fans due to the humanitarian crisis between Israel and Palestine.
Many believe Djokovic's participation is a bad look considering the ongoing political and religious conflict in the region.
Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas told the United Nations on Friday that Israel has been engaged in a campaign of land confiscation in the occupied territories and was giving the military "total freedom" to kill or otherwise use excessive force against Palestinians.
"This is the truth - they are an apartheid regime," Abbas said.
Djokovic arrived in Israel on Monday and was immediately flooded with criticism from fans.
Many responded to a post from Djokovic on Twitter with videos of violence throughout conflicted Israel and Palestinian territories, describing his move as 'disgusting' and 'shameful'.
I’m one of your loyal fans since your first steps, I like your spirit and personality; everything has changed now, you should know that Israel has been established on mountains of human miseries and pains, read the history and you’ll understand.
— Sa’doon (@Muayyed9) September 27, 2022
Get yourself a new PR Novak. And quick.
— -LEBO- (@_Bole_) September 27, 2022
shame on you!
— Hager Helmy (@Hagerr_) September 27, 2022
First, it's called Palestine , Secondly I don't admit this or this tournament. I won't watch or encourage him..see you the next tournament. https://t.co/rDNHMJcGXZ
— Grizi ²¹ 🇷🇸 (@Ur_Fav_7) September 27, 2022
It is Palestine and it is an occupied and usurped country, don't you know this?
We are your fans and will never be with you in this tournament
— منى الكثيري 🎾 (@mkady842) September 27, 2022
The fresh furore comes after a year plagued by controversy for Djokovic, who was sensationally deported from Australia before the year's first grand slam due to his vaccination status.
He also missed the recent US Open due to his refusal to get the Covid-19 jab, as well as ATP 1000 events in Montreal and Cincinnati.
Djokovic has since tumbled down the world rankings from No.1 to No.7, and will be desperate to gain some much-needed rankings points.
He lost a staggering 2000 points despite winning Wimbledon due to the ATP and WTA tour's sanctions on the All England Club.
The men's and women's tours made the staggering decision to strip Wimbledon of rankings points after the All England Club banned players from Russia and Belarus due to Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine.
Novak Djokovic struggling with wrist issue
Meanwhile, Djokovic has revealed he was bothered by a wrist problem during the Laver Cup in London and his lengthy absence from the Tour could be to blame.
The 35-year-old, who missed the North American hard-court swing and US Open due to not being vaccinated, produced a dazzling performance on Saturday by winning his singles and doubles matches.
However he lost to Canada's Felix Auger-Aliassime on the final day of competition on Sunday.
"I have been struggling with my right wrist for the last four, five days, to be honest. I have been keeping it under control," Djokovic told reporters.
"The two matches yesterday probably had an effect. Today was not easy. I couldn't serve as fast or as accurately as I would like to. That has affected the whole game."
Djokovic said qualifying for November's ATP Finals in Turin remained his goal and that he will play a an event in Kazakhstan next week and then the Paris Masters at the end of October.
His Wimbledon victory guarantees him a spot in the Tour-ending Finals if he remains ranked in the world's top 20.
Djokovic said the wrist issue could be due to a combination of factors.
"Could be not playing matches almost three months, and then conditions here are such that the balls are really big and slow," he said.
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