US Open: Novak Djokovic claims there’s no hard feelings after vaccine status prevented him from playing in New York last year

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US Open: Novak Djokovic claims there’s no hard feelings after vaccine status prevented him from playing in New York last year

  • Novak Djovokic was barred by the US government from last year’s US Open
  • But he’s back in New York this year as he looks to win his 24th Grand Slam
  • DailyMail.com provides all the latest international sports news

Novak Djokovic insisted that he holds no grudges upon his return to the US Open after being barred from competing a year ago.

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The Serbian is back after being stopped by the American government from entering the country in 2022 due to his refusal to take a Covid vaccine, an absence which paved the way for Carlos Alcaraz to claim his first Major title.

Having beaten Alcaraz in Cincinnati last Sunday – a tiny measure of revenge for what happened at Wimbledon – he was keen to exude positivity rather than dwell on the controversies that kept him away twelve months ago.

‘There was no anger. It was last year during the Open that I felt it’s a pity that I’m not there. I felt sad for not being able to participate,’ he said. ‘But this time I don’t think about what happened in the last year or last couple of years.

‘The first feeling that I have is excitement to come back because it is the biggest arena we have in our sport, the biggest stadium, and definitely the most fun, electric, exciting atmosphere out there in tennis, playing night session in Arthur Ashe, no doubt. I’m very excited that I’ll be able to play the opening night on Monday. Come back in front of probably the loudest fans in the sport.’

Novak Djokovic is back in New York for the US Open after missing out on last year's edition

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Novak Djokovic is back in New York for the US Open after missing out on last year’s edition

The Serbian will begin with a comfortable looking first round against Dominik Koepfer

The Serbian will begin with a comfortable looking first round against Dominik Koepfer

The Serbian outlasted Carlos Alcaraz in the Western & Southern Open final in Cincinnati

The Serbian outlasted Carlos Alcaraz in the Western & Southern Open final in Cincinnati

In the Cincinnati final he edged out Alcaraz in three sets which took three hours and 49 minutes in steaming heat, a test from which he has only just recovered.

‘It was physically so demanding and grueling that I felt very exhausted for the next few days,’ he said. ‘Those are kind of the moments in matches that I still push myself on a daily basis for day in and day out – practice, sacrifice, commitment. At 36, I still have the drive.

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‘I love competition. I think the more you find yourself in those particular circumstances where you’re experiencing adversity on the court, where things are not maybe moving the right way for you in terms of the performance of that day, in terms of tennis, or mentally you’re not feeling your best, that’s normally the best possible opportunity for you to grow mentally. Normally in the face of adversity is where you learn the most.’

Djokovic will begin his campaign with a comfortable looking first round against Germany’s Dominik Koepfer. In the third round he could theoretically face Britain’s Dan Evans.

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