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Novak Djokovic feels "fortunate" and "grateful" to be in Australia, says his "heart goes out to all the people suffering"

Novak Djokovic arrives in Adelaide, Australia on 14 January 2021
Novak Djokovic arrives in Adelaide, Australia on 14 January 2021
FEATURED COLUMNIST
Modified 23 Jan 2021
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Novak Djokovic recently said he feels fortunate that players have received special permission to come to Australia to compete in the summer hardcourt events. He also expressed sympathy for all the people suffering from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, especially the Australian citizens who have been unable to enter the country.

Concerns over the virus getting back into the community after months of lockdown have put the Australian Open at the centre of a storm over the past few days. Novak Djokovic in particular has attracted a lot of backlash for his requests to ease the restrictions on players quarantining in Melbourne.

But in a radio conversation on Friday, Djokovic asserted that he is aware of the sacrifices made by the local citizens in hosting the Australian Open.

"There has been a great debate in the last several weeks whether the tennis (players) should come or not," Djokovic said. "There are many who are unable to reunite with their families and who are still waiting for permission to come to Australia. And us getting that special permission to be here, quarantine and then participate in the Australian tennis summer is a privilege and we've been fortunate. My heart goes out to all the people suffering. I hope that all this will pass quickly, that we will all be free again soon."

An eight-time champion at the Australian Open, Novak Djokovic added that he is looking forward to competing in front of the sport-loving Australian crowds. He also expressed hope that the players would be able to provide some entertainment to the local fans, who are undoubtedly experiencing frustration over the added health risks due to the tournament.

"I love being here," Novak Djokovic said. "It's a country of sports. The amount of passion and love for the sports (in Australia) is quite impressive. I can't wait to go out and start competing in front of the Aussie crowd."
"We do, in a way, want to feel welcome here," the Serb added. "I understand the frustration of the people having us here and Australian citizens are unable to come back home. I'm grateful to be here. I hope all of us together can have, at least, some good times on the tennis courts in Adelaide and in Melbourne. I hope that we can bring some good positive energy and joy to the people."

"Gonna run straight to the park" - Novak Djokovic on what he plans to do once the Adelaide quarantine ends

The 33-year-old Novak Djokovic is among the top players currently in the midst of their two-week quarantine in Adelaide. He and the rest of the stars will play an exhibition event on 29 January, before heading to Melbourne for the official Australian hardcourt events.

When asked about his experience during quarantine, Novak Djokovic said that he misses his freedom and that he plans to 'run straight to the park' when his 14-day isolation period ends.

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"Just freedom," Novak Djokovic replied when asked what he was looking forward to once his quarantine period ends. "The first thing I'm gonna do on Friday morning, I'm just gonna run straight to the park and I'm just gonna spend an hour there. I miss being free and being able to walk around."

At the same time however, Novak Djokovic feels extremely fortunate compared to some of his fellow players in Melbourne. He can train for up to five hours a day and enjoy a spacious accommodation with fresh air, while the Melbourne players have been confined to smaller rooms - with some not even being allowed to train.

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"(There have been) quite a few kids with their families coming these days in front of the balcony, playing tennis and from my country and also from Australia," Novak Djokovic said. "Honestly, it's been a wonderful experience so far for me being in quarantine. It's been different, obviously. No one likes to be locked up in a room for 14 days but at the same time we have been very fortunate compared to the guys in Melbourne. Getting more hours outside and on the court and having a balcony and some fresh air. So I can't complain."
Published 23 Jan 2021, 00:50 IST
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