'He Will Be Stronger Than Ever' - Serbian Players Rally Around Djokovic At Australian Open - UBITENNIS
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‘He Will Be Stronger Than Ever’ – Serbian Players Rally Around Djokovic At Australian Open

The sentiment among many of the country’s top players in Melbourne is anger over the way Djokovic has been treated.

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Novak Djokovic alla 2021 Davis Cup by Rakuten (Credits: Pedro Salado/Quality Sport Images/Kosmos Tennis)

It is clear that Serbian players at this year’s Australian Open have two things on their mind – to play the best tennis they can and to defend their leader Novak Djokovic from further criticism.

Tennis has been marred with controversy over the past 11 days following a dramatic visa battle between the world No.1 and the Australian authorities. Djokovic saw his visa get cancelled, won a legal battle to overturn that decision, got his visa cancelled once again and ended up being deported from the country following a second unsuccessful court appeal. Authorities argue that the tennis star pose a threat and could incite civil unrest related to the ani-vaxx movement. An allegation his legal team denies. Meanwhile, Serbia feels that their greatest tennis player of all time has been mistreated.

Miomir Kecmanovic is a former world No.1 junior player who was set to play Djokovic in the first round on Monday. Instead, he took on Italian lucky loser Salvatore Caruso who he beat 6-4, 6-2, 6-1.

“Everything that happened to Novak in the last few days certainly affected all of us from Serbia,” world No.77 Miomir Kecmanovic told CODE Sports prior to the match. “It is clear that I am disappointed with the decision of the authorities in Australia. I think that tennis lost a lot with this event in Australia, because not having the best tennis player in the world is a loss for the sport, the spectators, all of us.”

Laslo Djere bowed out of the tournament to Denis Shapovalov in his first round match. He once partnered Djokovic in an ATP doubles tournament back in 2015 and the two are Davis Cup teammates. Speaking to reporters following his loss, the 26-year-old says the atmosphere has changed since the court ruling.

“A different feel here for me. I texted Novak that I’m sorry about what happened. I don’t get it, their rules were that you can enter the country with an exemption, they didn’t follow their own rules… It’s just terrible, a catastrophe,” he said.

Djere says he has heard a ‘few conversations’ among players and admits that not all of them support Djokovic for whatever reason. Unlike the Serbian contingent, most other players on the Tour have been reluctant to weigh in on the debate and some such as Rafael Nadal has expressed frustration that the fiasco is overshadowing the sport.

Personally, I feel that he will be stronger than ever after this. It’s our mentality – when we fall or we are treated unjustly, it fuels us and motivates us, him especially,” the world No.52 stated.

Dusan Lajovic didn’t hold back when he was asked to express his view on the situation. He was the first man from his country to book a place in the second round after ousting Wimbledon quarter-finalist Marton Fucsovics in five sets.

“I think the way they treated him was terribly wrong, the decision itself was terribly wrong and also the reason why they did it was terribly wrong. Based on an idea.. It’s not the right way,” said Lajovic.
“Many from the top did not support him. Maybe they know Novak is one of favorites of the title, one obstacle less for them, but I don’t know whether that was their point of view. I tried to stay off the media because there was many half-information.” He later added.

According to Australian immigration laws, 34-year-old Djokovic will not be granted another visa to enter the country for another three years. However, prime minister Scott Morrison told radio station 2GB that the 20-time Grand Slam champion could be allowed to return earlier than that provided he meets the ‘right circumstances.’

Note: quotes via twitter.com/ozmo_sasa

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Rafael Nadal To Play Laver Cup In Berlin

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Rafael Nadal has eased speculation that he might be retiring from the sport soon after signing on to play in the Laver Cup later this year. 

The 22-time Grand Slam champion is the latest player to join the line-up for this year’s team competition which features Europe taking on the rest of the world over three days. It will be Nadal’s fourth appearance in the competition and his first since 2022. He competed in the inaugural edition of the event back in 2017 alongside co-founder Roger Federer. 

“I am very happy to be playing Laver Cup in Berlin for Team Europe,” Nadal said in a press release. “I have some really special memories from my Laver Cup experiences, including all the emotions from London two years ago playing alongside Roger for the last time.”

Nadal’s decision to play comes amid questions about his future in the sport. The former world No.1 has previously indicated that this year could be his last on the Tour but he has stated that no decision has been made. In recent months he has been sidelined from action due to injury setbacks and has only been able to play in two tournaments so far this year. 

“At this stage in my career I really want to go out there and make the most of every opportunity I am given,” he explains.
“Teaming up is always an incredible experience and I have always enjoyed it, the competition is different and exciting. I’m looking forward to going to Berlin and helping Team Europe win back the Laver Cup.”

Other European players confirmed to be playing are Carlos Alcaraz, Daniil Medvedev and Alexander Zverev. Meanwhile, Alex de Minaur, Taylor Fritz and Tommy Paul have agreed to play for Team World. This year’s event will be held in Belin at the Uber Arena between September 20-22. 

The Laver Cup was inspired by golf’s Ryder Cup. It was co-founded by Federer’s Team8 management company (which he formed with agent Tony Godsick), businessman Jorge Paulo Lemann and Tennis Australia. In 2019 it became an official ATP sanction event and now has a place on the official calendar. 

Nadal is set to return to competitive action at the Madrid Masters which he has won on five previous occasions. He has been drawn to play teenage wild card Darwin Blanch in the first round. If he wins, Nadal will then play Alex de Minaur who knocked him out of the Barcelona Open last week. 

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Carlos Alcaraz In Doubt For Madrid Open Title Defence

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Carlos Alcaraz admits that he is not certain if he will be ready in time to play at next week’s Madrid Masters.

The 20-year-old is yet to play a clay tournament in Europe due to a forearm injury which ruled him out of both Monte Carlo and Barcelona. He hurt his right arm whilst training shortly before the Monte Carlo event began. 

It is the latest in a series of injury issues that has affected Alcaraz throughout his young career. Since the start of 2023, he has also been derailed by issues with his abdominal, hamstring, post-traumatic arthritis in his left hand and muscular discomfort in his spine. 

“My feeling isn’t right, but it is what it is. Now I’m fully focused on recovery and I have a little more time,” Alcaraz told reporters in Barcelona on Monday.
“My goal is to try and go to the Madrid Open, but at the moment nothing is certain. I was given specific recovery times and I’ve respected them, but I haven’t felt good. I don’t want to get ahead of myself.
“I can’t say I’ll be 100% in Madrid, but that’s my intention. We’ll train and do everything we can so that the feelings improve so I can play a match … It’s also a very special tournament for me.”

Alcaraz has won the past two editions of the Madrid Open, which is classed as a Masters 1000 event. In 2022 he defeated Alexander Zverev in the final and then 12 months later he beat Jan-Lennard Struff in the title match.

The setback comes after what has been a steady start to the year for Alcaraz who has reached the quarter-finals or better in four out of five tournaments played. He successfully defended his title in Indian Wells and then reached the semi-finals in Miami. 

Should he not play in Madrid, it is likely that the Spaniard will lose his No.2 spot to Jannik Sinner who is just over 100 points behind him in the standings. He will still have the chance to play a clay-court event before the French Open with Rome taking place early next month. 

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Olympic Qualification Is Not the Only Goal For French Veteran Gael Monfils

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Gael Monfils (image via https://twitter.com/atptour)

Gael Monfils admits he doesn’t have too many years left on the Tour but this doesn’t mean his targets are any less ambitious. 

The 37-year-old has enjoyed a rapid rise up the rankings over the past 12 months following battles with injury. At his lowest, he was ranked 394th last May but is now in 40th position. As a result, he is closing on securing a place in the Olympic Games which is being held in his home country of France for the first time since 1924. The tennis event will be staged at Roland Garros. 

“When I was 400, I was thinking the Olympics would be great, but it’s going to be tough,” Monfils told reporters on Tuesday. 
“There are younger players playing well. If I don’t qualify, I don’t mind. It will just mean I’m very close to the ranking I want to be. That ranking will allow me to find another goal.”

Monfils is already a three-time Olympian but has never won a medal at the event. He reached the quarter-finals of the singles tournament twice in 2008 and 2016. 

Another goal of Frenchmen is the Wimbledon championships which concludes just three weeks before the Olympics begin. The proximity of these tournaments will be a challenge to all players who will be going from playing on clay to grass and then back to clay again. 

“I really want to go and play Wimbledon. I don’t have so many Wimbledons to play in the future. The Olympics is one goal, not the only goal.” Monfils states.
“My dream is of course to be part of the Olympics. I played three times at the Olympics. I’d like to be there again. But I also really want to do well in Wimbledon this year. To reach my goal, it has to be including Wimbledon.” He added. 

Monfils is currently playing at the Monte Carlo Masters where he beat Aleksandar Vukic in his opening match. In the next round, he will take on Daniil Medvedev in what will be their first meeting since 2022. He leads their head-to-head 2-1. 

Medvedev has openly spoken about his roller-coaster relationship with playing on the clay. He admits it is not his favourite surface but how much of a factor could this be in his upcoming clash with Monfils?

“Of course, it’s not his favourite one, but he’s still Daniil Medvedev, and whatever the surface, it’s always very complicated to play him,” Monfils concludes. 

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