Djokovic says he’s at his ‘peak’ back on tour in Dubai

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic said Sunday that despite weeks without competition and emotional distress following his recent detention and expulsion, he feels he is at his “peak as he returns to tour.



Novak Djokovic of Serbia trains a day before the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Sunday, Feb. 20, 2022. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)


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Novak Djokovic of Serbia trains a day before the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Sunday, Feb. 20, 2022. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)



Novak Djokovic of Serbia trains a day before the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Sunday, Feb. 20, 2022. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)


© Provided by Associated Press
Novak Djokovic of Serbia trains a day before the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Sunday, Feb. 20, 2022. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)

The world’s best male tennis player struck an optimistic note during a press conference a day before the start of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship, Djokovic’s first tournament since his expulsion from Australia and his absence from the first event of the Grand Slam of the year due to his vaccination status.



Novak Djokovic of Serbia trains a day before the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Sunday, Feb. 20, 2022. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)


© Provided by Associated Press
Novak Djokovic of Serbia trains a day before the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Sunday, Feb. 20, 2022. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)

“It wasn’t really difficult for me to pick up a racquet and go out and do the sport and just play,” he told reporters. “I’m as prepared as I can be.”



Novak Djokovic of Serbia reacts during his training a day before the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Sunday, Feb. 20, 2022. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)


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Novak Djokovic of Serbia reacts during his training a day before the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Sunday, Feb. 20, 2022. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)

Djokovic’s presence brings unusual attention to the annual tournament near Dubai International Airport and the authorities have apparently also taken extraordinary measures.



Novak Djokovic of Serbia trains a day before the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Sunday, Feb. 20, 2022. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)


© Provided by Associated Press
Novak Djokovic of Serbia trains a day before the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Sunday, Feb. 20, 2022. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)

Organizers blocked most photographers and videographers from Djokovic’s press conference without explanation. Earlier, security guards were out in force at Djokovic’s training, questioning reporters who tried to catch a glimpse of him serving and swinging on the pitch. Those restrictions weren’t in place, the guards acknowledged, for any other player. Organizers were not immediately available for comment.



Novak Djokovic of Serbia trains a day before the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Sunday, Feb. 20, 2022. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)


© Provided by Associated Press
Novak Djokovic of Serbia trains a day before the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Sunday, Feb. 20, 2022. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)

The saga of Djokovic’s canceled travel visa on the eve of the Australian Open has sparked intense interest around the world, shining a light on how officials are addressing pandemic restrictions and exemptions. The dramatic legal dispute also had a personal impact.



Novak Djokovic of Serbia trains a day before the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Sunday, Feb. 20, 2022. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)


© Provided by Associated Press
Novak Djokovic of Serbia trains a day before the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Sunday, Feb. 20, 2022. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)

“There were a lot of emotions after I came back from Australia,” he said. “It was strange. I was disappointed, I was sad with how everything turned out and how I left the country.



Novak Djokovic of Serbia trains a day before the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Sunday, Feb. 20, 2022. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)


© Provided by Associated Press
Novak Djokovic of Serbia trains a day before the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Sunday, Feb. 20, 2022. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)

Djokovic’s fierce pledge to remain unvaccinated against coronavirus at this time means he could be banned from a series of upcoming Grand Slam tournaments, including the US Open and French Open, where he is chasing a record 21st Grand Slam title.



Novak Djokovic of Serbia trains a day before the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Sunday, Feb. 20, 2022. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)


© Provided by Associated Press
Novak Djokovic of Serbia trains a day before the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Sunday, Feb. 20, 2022. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)

The 34-year-old made it clear that it was a cost he was willing to bear.



Novak Djokovic of Serbia trains a day before the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Sunday, Feb. 20, 2022. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)


© Provided by Associated Press
Novak Djokovic of Serbia trains a day before the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Sunday, Feb. 20, 2022. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)

“Whatever tournament I can play, I will try to go to that country and play that tournament,” he said, acknowledging that his freedom of movement and access to tournaments will depend on virus restrictions. local. “I really can’t choose. It’s really where I can go and play.



Novak Djokovic of Serbia reacts during his training a day before the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Sunday, Feb. 20, 2022. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)


© Provided by Associated Press
Novak Djokovic of Serbia reacts during his training a day before the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Sunday, Feb. 20, 2022. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)

Dubai authorities do not require visitors to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to enter.



Serbian Novak Djokovic plays soccer with a tennis ball during his training a day before the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Sunday, Feb. 20, 2022. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)


© Provided by Associated Press
Serbian Novak Djokovic plays soccer with a tennis ball during his training a day before the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Sunday, Feb. 20, 2022. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)

After hours of tearing up backhands from the baseline in Dubai, Djokovic added he was delighted to return to the tournament he has won five times.



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© Provided by Associated Press
Serbian Novak Djokovic, 2nd left, talks to his team members during a training session the day before the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Sunday, February 20, 2022. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)

“Having previous positive experiences on the pitch and titles obviously connects me to this place even more,” he said, noting that the players had so far seemed warm and welcoming unlike Australia. “We will play this tournament and see how it goes later.”

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