MONACO ( Associated Press) — Novak Djokovic is set to move on from a controversy over refusing to vaccinate against COVID-19.
“I miss the competition,” the Serbian tennis star said on Sunday, the opening day of the clay-court season at the Monte Carlo Masters in Monaco. “I still feel inspired to stay on tour and compete … and try to challenge the best players in the world for the biggest title.”
The 20-time Grand Slam champion has played only one tournament so far in 2022, losing to Jiri Wesley in the quarterfinals of the Dubai Championships.
Djokovic could not defend his Australian Open title in January after he was kicked out of the country for not being vaccinated.
Recently, he had to skip tournaments in Indian Wells, California and Miami as he could not travel to the United States for the same reason.
He has announced that he will not receive the vaccine in order to be able to compete.
It has been a turbulent start to 2022 for Djokovic, who went through a detention and court case during an 11-day saga in Australia before he was sent home and denied permission to defend his title at Melbourne Park Went.
Rafael Nadal broke the tie with Djokovic and Roger Federer to win the Australian Open for his 21st major trophy.
In late February, Djokovic lost his No. 1 ranking for the first time in two years, slipping to No. 2 behind Daniil Medvedev, before regaining the top spot.
And on March 1, Djokovic announced that he and coach Marion Vajda were separating after 15 years together.
“The last four, five months have been really challenging for me mentally and emotionally but I am here and I try to leave it behind and move on,” Djokovic said on Sunday.
Their first match is to be held in Monaco on Tuesday.
Authorities in France and Monaco last month lifted most COVID-19 restrictions, allowing people who have not been vaccinated in the country to return to restaurants, playgrounds and other places.
With his French Open title in 2021 still fresh on his mind, Djokovic declared that clay in Monaco is the best surface for his return, even though “historically it hasn’t been my most successful surface.”
“I will try to use that (French Open title) as inspiration to start the clay court season in the best possible way,” Djokovic said. “I understand that I probably won’t be able to do my best, especially in the beginning.”
He added that “it will take some time, some matches will really get into the groove.”
The French Open is starting from 22 May in Paris.
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