Rod Laver Arena Like Second Home for Djokovic

Novak Djokovic (photo: ATP Cup)

WASHINGTON, February 5, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

Novak Djokovic has been a regular fixture in Melbourne this time of year. Rod Laver Arena is his home away from home. He’s compiled a 75-8 lifetime win-loss record competing in the Australian Open, the year’s first major, with many if not most of those victories coming on the showcase venue at Melbourne Park.

On Friday, the World No. 1 Djokovic, who has lifted the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup each of the last two years and eight times overall, was unveiled as the men’s No. 1 seed for this year’s Australian Open, which begins Monday. During a recent interview with media whom are covering Djokovic and Team Serbia in this week’s ATP Cup as well as the upcoming Australian Open, the 33-year-old Belgrade native was asked if it ever gets old coming back to Rod Laver Arena.

“It does feel like a home for me in Australia, in Melbourne, particular in Rod Laver [Arena],” Djokovic said. “This is by far my most successful tennis court in my career. [I] had some profound memories in the last 15 years, and you now, won my first Grand Slam back in 2008. Obviously, [I] I was very fortunate to win it eight times, the Australian Open.”

When Djokovic took the time to reflect upon what it means to have won the Australian Open eight times, although he said there were “just too many memories – beautiful memories – to pick one that would stand out,” he did point to his 2012 final against Rafael Nadal, which lasted almost six hours (5 hours, 53 minutes) and was won by Djokovic, 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-7 (5), 7-5.

“Each year that I come back to the court, it feels even better,” Djokovic said. “The more you win obviously on the court, the more confident you feel coming back to it.”

Djokovic was asked to comment about coming back to Australia this year and what it was like spending two weeks in quarantine before competing. He said: “It was a unique experience I think for every one of us coming to Australia and being 14 days in quarantine. For some easier, for some worse obviously.

“In the end of the day, we are all out. Of course, I’m hoping that everyone will be able to be fit and perform the best that they can possibly play on the court.

“We are all excited and looking forward to the start of the season. We’ve trained hard. All of us here [representing Team Serbia], I’m sure most of the other players as well, had good off-season training blocks, and we are ready to kick-start our seasons in the best possible way.”

Looking back at last week, in which Djokovic competed in the Day at the Drive exhibition matches in Adelaide, played in front of 4,000 fans, he said he “had goosebumps coming into the court playing in front of fans again after 12 months of not experiencing that.

“It feels like ages, you know, playing without fans. Hopefully, this is all temporary, that we will be able to experience everywhere we go the fact of playing in front of the fans, not just here in Australia.

“Obviously, this county has done a great job dealing with this virus. I think it’s probably the only country, maybe, having this kind of opportunity to have sports with that many fans on the stands. Not too strict of regulations and restrictions like maybe [the] rest of Europe or [the] world.

“But it is what it is. Every country deal with it in a different way. In Europe, it’s going to be I think [a] far more challenging to experience something that we are experiencing here in terms of crowds on the stands. But we might as well enjoy it as much as we can while we’re here.”

Volvo Car Open to be played without fans

On Thursday, the Volvo Car Open, a WTA 500-series event held annually in Charleston, S.C., announced it would be held without fans. The tournament is scheduled April 3-11.

In a statement, the tournament said: “When the WTA gave us the approval to move forward with planning our annual tournament, we had high hopes that the ongoing pandemic world would not impact our ability to safely host the Volvo Car Open and welcome back a limited number of patrons. While we had remained optimistic about our intentions for the spring, we have been closely monitoring COVID-19 and watching the case county continue to rise in South Carolina.

“After much deliberation, our team has made the difficult but necessary decision to host the 2021 Volvo Car Open without fans. We have concluded that the creation of a made-for-TV tournament is the best possible outcome for our event. Both Tennis Channel and WTA Media have agreed to broadcast the tournament, providing a full week of coverage for our fans both in the U.S. and abroad.”

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