Novak Djokovic’s long absence from competitive tennis at the start of last year after he was deported from Australia helped him “achieve some great results,” he said in a press conference on Saturday ahead of the 2023 Australian Open.
Djokovic played just two tournaments in the opening four months of 2022 due to his decision to not be vaccinated against Covid-19, and resulting failure to comply with travel rules of some countries hosting tournaments.
This enforced time off, however, allowed him to spend more time training.
“As a professional tennis player on the highest level, don’t have much time to really have a longer training block,” Djokovic told reporters. “We have a very long season … you have a few weeks here and there.
“The fact that I wasn’t playing for several months at the beginning of last year allowed me to really get together with my team and work on my body, on my strokes, which has later helped me to achieve some great results.”
Later that year, Djokovic won his fourth consecutive Wimbledon title, as well as his sixth ATP Finals win, and he has begun 2023 in a similar vein with victory at the Adelaide International.
Djokovic is aiming to win a 10th Australian Open title in Melbourne and, more significantly, equal the men’s record of grand slam titles – currently set by Rafael Nadal at 22 – providing the 35-year-old with added motivation.
“That’s why I keep on playing professional tennis, competition tennis, because I want to be the best, I want to win the biggest tournaments in the world,” he said.
“You have four Slams that historically have been the biggest events in our sport. It’s also one of the biggest reasons why I was really looking forward to come back to Australia: because of my record here. I really love playing in Rod Laver Arena, particularly night sessions. I’ve had plenty of success that hopefully can continue this year.”
Although Djokovic hurt his hamstring in the semifinals of the Adelaide International last week and is consequently “being a bit more cautious,” he says that it is “hopefully not a major concern.”
“I’m in a very good shape,” he added. “I ended the year in the best possible way, and continued that form in Adelaide. I like the way I played there. I beat some really good players, especially in the last few matches of the tournament.
“I like my chances. I always like my chances.”
Djokovic will begin his Australian Open campaign against unseeded Spaniard Roberto Carballes Baena on January 17.