Novak Djokovic has hit the practice court in Dubai ahead of his return to the ATP tour following his deportation from Australia.
The World No.1 was upbeat at a news conference on the eve of the Dubai Tennis Championship - his first tournament since being ejected from Australia and missing the year's first grand slam over his vaccination status.
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The event in Dubai doesn't have a vaccination mandate, meaning Djokovic is free to play while unvaccinated.
"It wasn't really difficult for me to pick up a racquet and go out and practice the sport and just play," the Serbian told reporters.
"I'm as well prepared as I possibly can be."
Authorities have taken extraordinary steps due to Djokovic's presence at the annual tournament near Dubai International Airport, with an unusual amount of scrutiny placed on the event.
Organisers blocked most photographers and videographers from Djokovic's news conference without any explanation, while security was tight for those who were granted access.
Security guards were also out in force at Djokovic's practice session, questioning reporters who tried to grab a glimpse of him serving and swinging on the court.
According to the Associated Press, security guards admitted the restrictions were not in place for any other players.
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Novak Djokovic back in action after Australia saga
The saga surrounding Djokovic's cancelled visa on the eve of the Australian Open drew intense interest around the world, shining a light on how public officials approach pandemic restrictions and exemptions.
But Djokovic admitted the dramatic legal dispute also took a personal toll.
"There were lots of emotions after I came back from Australia," he said.
"It was strange. I was disappointed, I was sad about the way it all has played out and the way I left the country."
Djokovic's fierce commitment to staying unvaccinated for the time being means he could be barred from competing in a series of upcoming grand slams.
The 34-year-old has made it clear that this is a cost he's willing to bear.
"Whatever tournament I'll be able to play I'll be trying to get to that country and play that tournament," he said, acknowledging his freedom of movement and access to tournaments will depend on local virus restrictions.
"I really can't choose. It's really about where I can go and play."
Dubai authorities do not require visitors to be vaccinated against Covid-19 to enter.
After hours spent ripping backhands on the baseline in Dubai, Djokovic added he was excited about returning to the tournament he has won five times.
"Having previous positive experiences on the court and titles obviously connects me to this place even more," he said, noting that players had so far seemed warm and welcoming unlike in Australia.
"We'll play this tournament and see how it goes further down the line."
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