MELBOURNE (AFP) – Six-time Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic says he’s excited to be back after a long injury-enforced break, admitting he has missed the “fire and passion” of competitive tennis.
The Serbian former world number one has been out of action for six months, and while he enjoyed having his first real break since turning professional, he is ready to get back to business.
“I’m just glad to be back playing tennis, having an opportunity to compete yet again in the big tournaments. I’ve missed it,” he said Saturday at Melbourne Park.
Djokovic has been sidelined with an elbow injury that had been progressively getting worse over the past few years.
He said it got to the point where the pain on his serve was becoming unbearable, with a sustained period of rest the only cure.
“It hasn’t been 100 percent yet healed. But right now it’s at the level where I can compete, and every day is getting better,” he said.
“Throughout the tournament, I don’t know how it’s going to behave. Even if it’s 100 percent healed, after six months of no competition, you never know how you’re going to react.”
But despite slipping down the rankings and only seeded 14 at the opening Grand Slam of the year, his confidence is high and he warned he could still go far.
“I still know what I’m capable of, and I believe in my own abilities to win against the best players in the world,” he said ahead of his opening round clash against American Donald Young.
“I know that if I get myself to the desired level of performance — mental and physical — that I can actually have a good chance to go far in the tournament.
“Now, whether my approach is different to this year’s Australian Open to other previous years, probably yes. It’s different circumstances. But it is exciting. Honestly, it’s a good place to be.”