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Djokovic: “I’m hoping that I’ll be back on the court very soon competing”

Novak Djokovic knows he needs more matches to regain his groove but his decision to remain unvaccinated leaves him with an uncertain tournament schedule in the coming months

Serbia's Novak Djokovic waves to the crowd after he loses his quarter final match against Czech Republic's Jiri Vesely at the Dubai Tennis Championships Serbia’s Novak Djokovic waves to the crowd after he loses his quarter final match against Czech Republic’s Jiri Vesely at the Dubai Tennis Championships Image Credit: AI / Reuters / Panoramic

Novak Djokovic said he hopes to return to competing on the tour very soon following his quarter-final loss at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships even as his decision to not get vaccinated against COVID-19 will pose several obstacles to his participation in professional events in the coming months.

Playing his first tournament of the season, the 20-time Grand Slam champion was defeated by Czech Jiri Vesely 6-4, 7-6 on Thursday evening in front of a packed arena in Dubai that egged the Serb on at every opportunity they got. It wasn’t enough as Vesely improved to 2-0 against Djokovic, who will cede his No 1 ranking on Monday to Russia’s Daniil Medvedev.

Asked about his future goals, Djokovic responded, “My goal is to keep on playing tennis. That’s the ultimate goal. For as long as I really feel like it, to be honest, and as long as I can play, as long as my body allows me, as long as the circumstances in my life as well, the people that surrounds me support me. If all is in favor of me playing professional tennis and competing, I’ll keep on doing that.”

“I don’t look at the age really as a restricting factor for my career. I still feel great in terms of my body and the way it’s holding on, the way it’s recovering. It’s been serving me well, so to say. That’s something that obviously encourages me to keep going.

I don’t feel that the matches lost anymore are sticking with me as maybe it was the case earlier in my career.

The Serb added that he was upset with the loss and recognised that as a sign that he remains as motivated as ever to continue competing and being part of the game.

“Of course I’m still motivated and I’m still pissed off when I lose a match. I care about it. I care about winning every match, as anybody else on the tour, regardless of the age. I’m actually glad that I’m feeling a lot of emotions every single day because it means that I really want to be part of this sport, part of the tour. As I said, I’m hoping that I’ll be back on the court very soon competing. If I get a chance, I’ll try to make the most out of it.”

Serbia's Novak Djokovic in action during his first round match against Italy's Lorenzo Musetti at the Dubai Tennis Championships
Serbia’s Novak Djokovic in action during his first round match against Italy’s Lorenzo Musetti at the Dubai Tennis Championships Image Credit: AI / Reuters / Panoramic

Djokovic admitted that he needs to play more matches to become regain his confidence after the long break, saying that matches are always more different than practice sessions.

“The more matches I play, the more confident I will be, the more comfortable I’ll be feeling on the court. Practice, match play, completely two different things. Obviously nerves of being on the court, every point counts, so you have to deal with more things that you deal with on practice sessions basically.”

As things currently stand, Djokovic will not be permitted to play in Indian Wells and Miami due to his decision to remain unvaccinated – a scenario that could play out in several other countries on the global ATP Tour. Despite the loss, Djokovic said he does not put too much emphasis on losses as he used to in his younger days and has learnt to look forward.

“Every time you lose a match you’re out of the tournament and it’s a lost chance. If I look at it that way… I don’t want to be mourning about my matches lost. I’m over that. Of course I’m upset that I lose a match. It’s normal because I’m fighting one on one against my opponent. We both want to win. There can be only one winner. But the next day it’s already a next page in your next chapter of your tennis career. So I’ve lost so many matches in my life, I don’t feel that the matches lost anymore are sticking with me as maybe it was the case earlier in my career. I mean, it’s just another match, it’s just another tournament.”

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