Novak Djokovic US Open 2021

“It did take a toll on me” – Djokovic ‘underestimated’ the mental impact of Australia deportation

World number one Novak Djokovic has opened up on the mental struggles he faced following the Australian Open deportation saga in January. 

At the start of the year before the Australian Open, following weeks of court hearings and quarantining in hotels, Djokovic was deported from the country due to him being unvaccinated from Covid-19.

The Serbian’s unvaccinated status also forced him to miss the ‘Sunshine Double’ events and as a result has only competed in four tournaments so far this year.

His performances on the court wavered too as he suffered shock defeats in both Dubai and Monte Carlo Masters. 

However, Djokovic seems to be returning to his old imperious self as he reached his first final of 2022 at the Serbia Open last week and has now reached his first Masters semi-final in 2022 this week as he hopes to claim a fourth title in the Spanish capital.

Discussing his difficult start to the year, the three-time Madrid Open champion said that the whole ordeal in Australia “had taken it’s toll” and admitted that it was still impacting him when he rejoined the ATP Tour, first in Dubai in February, and then in Monte-Carlo last month.

In a recent interview, the 20-time Grand Slam champion told reporters, “At the beginning after I came back from Australia, I must admit that I was maybe underestimating the emotional state I was in. I thought, I’m out of Australia, it is what it is, what happened happened, I’m moving on.

“But then I did feel for the months to come, the emotional and mental traces of what was happening there were still there. I just felt that in the last few weeks, I started to kind of get out of that a little but, move on and transform it into fuel and positive energy.”

He also went on to discuss his performances on the court stating that it was only in Belgrade, and then more recently in Madrid where he began to feel his old self.

“It was a situation or circumstances I’d never faced in my life before. This was something that was completely unexpected, so it did take a toll on me, more mentally and emotionally than physically because I was just trying to OK, figure things out, go back to that optimal balanced state of mind, mind and body and soul and just try to approach the next tournament as any other, that was my mindset.

“But then I realised that when I started to play official matches that it’s actually not easy to just finish off with that. I had to still deal with that feeling of being….it’s hard to explain…but just that feeling that was holding me back a little bit, particularly in the first couple of tournaments.

“In those matches, I felt like I wasn’t myself, I was a bit more nervous than usual and just kind of in more of a defensive mode mentally when I started to play points officially.

“It took me a little bit of time to go through that. I think in Serbia, with the crowd support, and that great energy that I experienced there, that helped me to go through it, so hopefully from now onwards it will go back to the optimal balance that I need in order to perform my best.”

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