World number 1 Novak Djokovic says the strength of the crowd at the Adelaide Fair forced him to return after his late retirement.
After withdrawing from the event minutes before the scheduled match against Italian Yanik Senir, Djokovic stunned the fans by returning to play the second group of the competition, after substitute Filip Krajinovic won the first set 6-3.
Djokovic won the second set 6-3, won the match and provided an explanation for his initial absence and subsequent comeback.
He told Nine, “I’m sorry I didn’t play from the start.”
“I had to do some physical therapy and it wasn’t feeling my best for the past two days. I didn’t know how to respond. I wanted to play and wanted to get out of here and hope that will be enough for you guys.”
“It is not easy (playing with the bubble) but it is part of what we do. We are professional athletes and over the years we learn to play with pain and it is just a matter of whether or not that pain is possible.
“After I got out of a tough training phase, owning the ATP Cup and nearing the Australian Open, you don’t want to take too much of a risk. The feelings were so strong in me that I went out on the field today to see that I had to play with flying colors.”
Earlier, the Serbian said he was grateful for his release from quarantine after spending two weeks in an Adelaide hotel.
He said, “I think these days we take it for granted that we can walk on Earth.”
“It’s great to be outside, we had to do it. It was so good here in Adelaide, and I have to say we trained really well, had four and a half hours to train and be outdoors with fresh air.”
“We’re so excited to be honest that it sounds a little weird.”
While Djokovic was able to train during quarantine, he sympathized with the more than 70 players who were confined to their rooms.
“At the end of the day, we try to play tennis and bring some nice positive emotions to people, which is why we are here to provide entertainment, passion and fun,” he said.
“Compared to a large group of players who are still stuck, I sympathize with them.
“These boys and girls will definitely have a flaw, they trained in their rooms. It’s great that ATP, WTA and Tennis Australia are back to the start of previous tournaments.”
I hope we don’t see any injuries. This is the main part that worries me. “
Djokovic made headlines early in the quarantine period when he sent a request to Australian tennis coach Craig Tilly, with a flurry of suggestions from players who had been quarantined.
This included moving as many players as possible to homes with tennis courts.
The Serbian received a response from the public, but said his list was merely a list of “suggestions” and had been made in good faith.
“I know people want to discuss whether we are allowed to enter Australia, and I understand that there are many citizens who are not allowed to enter Australia,” Djokovic said.
“But we are very grateful to be here and compete in one of the biggest tournaments in the world.
There are different circumstances and experiences, it’s a really unique experience for me.
“I think it’s very good to have 7-10 days before the Australian Open … Everyone will play a game or two in the lead, then we’ll get to the top five in the men’s team. I think I’m ready.”
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