Tennis

Djokovic warned ’emotional baggage’ may harm chance at Australian Open

Novak Djokovic reacts to his media coverage in February

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Novak Djokovic has been warned about the “emotional baggage” that could derail his bid for a 10th Australian Open title this month. The 35-year-old will return to the scene of one of his biggest career controversies, having been detained upon his arrival down under last year over his refusal to be vaccinated against Covid.

An explosive legal saga followed, which concluded with the star being deported home a day before the event began. And it initially appeared he wouldn’t be returning to Melbourne until at least 2025, having been handed a three year visa ban.

But in November, it was confirmed that sanction had been revoked by Australia’s immigration minister, Andrew Giles. The current world No 5 will now be among the favourites to land the title he had claimed for three straight years until last year, when it was won in his absence by Rafael Nadal.

He’s been sounded a warning however by Patrick Mouratoglou, the former coach of Serena Williams. The French mentor fears that the mental fatigue caused by the chaos last time around could have a profound effect on the reigning Wimbledon champion.

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“It’s going to be tough for Novak in Australia, that’s for sure,” Mouratoglou told Eurosport. “He (is) going to carry a big emotional baggage. He’s been through so much, emotionally speaking. Nobody is immune. It’s going to be hard. I hope he doesn’t fall apart like he did at the US Open 2021 because there was too much.”

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Indeed, Djokovic is currently competing in the Adelaide International as he builds towards the first Slam of 2023. On Tuesday, he came through his first round match against Constant Lestienne in straight sets.

And he was afforded a good reception from the home crowd, with many Serbian flags being banded about as well. He will now face another Frenchman in Quentin Halys in the last 16 on Thursday morning.

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