Djokovic: “I underestimated the emotional state I was in after Australia”
The world No 1 says it took him time to realise the emotional effect his situation had caused but that now he feels much more like his normal self
Novak Djokovic says he underestimated the emotional toll that his incarceration in an Australian hotel at the start of this year took on him.
The world No 1 was not allowed to defend his Australian Open title due to his decision not to get vaccinated against Covid-19 and spent two stints in a hotel turned immigration centre as the government made up its mind not to permit him entry into the country.
In an interview with Tennis Channel on Thursday, Djokovic said the whole ordeal had “taken a toll on me” and admitted that it was still playing on his mind as he rejoined the ATP Tour, first in Dubai in February, and then in Monte-Carlo last month.
“At the beginning after I came back from Australia, I must admit that I was maybe underestimating the emotional state I was in,” Djokovic said, in a candid interview. “I thought, I’m out of Australia, it is what it is, what happened happened, I’m moving on.
“But then I did feel for the months to come, the emotional and mental traces of what was happening there were still there. I just felt that in the last few weeks, I started to kind of get out of that a little but, move on and transform it into fuel and positive energy.
Despite his extensive experience on Tour, both on and off the court, through his long-time role on the ATP Player Council and his years in dealing with the media, the experience in Australia was something neither he, nor anyone else, had been through.
Defeat in the quarter-finals in Dubai was followed by a first-match defeat in Monte-Carlo and it was only in Belgrade, and then more recently in Madrid where he began to feel his old self.
“It was a situation or circumstances I’d never faced in my life before,” he said. “This was something that was completely unexpected, so it did take a toll on me, more mentally and emotionally than physically because I was just trying to OK, figure things out, go back to that optimal balanced state of mind, mind and body and soul and just try to approach the next tournament as any other, that was my mindset.
“But then I realised that when I started to play official matches that it’s actually not easy to just finish off with that. I had to still deal with that feeling of being….it’s hard to explain…but just that feeling that was holding me back a little bit, particularly in the first couple of tournaments.
“In those matches, I felt like I wasn’t myself, I was a bit more nervous than usual and just kind of in more of a defensive mode mentally when I started to play points officially. It took me a little bit of time to go through that. I think in Serbia, with the crowd support, and that great energy that I experienced there, that helped me to go through it, so hopefully from now onwards it will go back to the optimal balance that I need in order to perform my best.”