Novak Djokovic received a warm welcome in Adelaide. Kelly Barnes
Land down under

Novak Djokovic makes losing return to Australia but given warm welcome back

Djokovic lost his first-round doubles match with Vasek Pospisil at the Adelaide International.

NOVAK DJOKOVIC MADE a losing return to Australia but received an enthusiastic welcome from fans at the Adelaide International.

Twelve months after he was deported as a risk to public health because of his refusal to receive the Covid-19 vaccine, Djokovic has returned to the country following the decision to overturn his visa ban.

His first match was a low-key doubles encounter alongside close friend Vasek Pospisil of Canada, which the pair lost 4-6 6-3 (10-5) to Bosnian Tomislav Brkic and Ecuador’s Gonzalo Escobar.

But any fears Djokovic may have had about how he would be received by the public were swiftly allayed as his supporters flocked to Memorial Drive to welcome him back.

The match was played on a packed outside court, with the spectators who managed to get in firmly behind Djokovic.

He walked out to loud cheers and fans chanting “Novak, Novak”.

While there were plenty of Serbian flags courtside, it became obvious that everyone was barracking for the 35-year-old, who stayed behind to sign autographs and pose for selfies after the match.

Djokovic begins his singles campaign on Tuesday against Frenchman Constant Lestienne as he builds up to the Australian Open, where he is looking for a record-extending 10th title.

There were two shocks in singles action on Monday, with second seed Felix Auger-Aliassime losing 6-4 7-6 (5) to Australian Alexei Popyrin while fifth seed Holger Rune was beaten 2-6 6-4 6-4 by Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka.

Jack Draper, one of three British men in the draw along with Andy Murray and Kyle Edmund, made a strong start to his season with a 6-2 6-1 victory over Kwon Soon-woo of South Korea.

Murray plays talented American Sebastian Korda on Tuesday while Edmund, finally fit again after a two-year battle with knee trouble, faces sixth seed Jannik Sinner.

- Additional reporting from – © AFP 2023

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