Nadal loses again at United Cup Novak Djokovic received a positive welcome back to Australia as he made a rare doubles appearance at the Adelaide International.
The Serb was deported before the 2022 Australian Open due to his vaccination status against COVID-19.
Djokovic’s three-year visa ban was lifted in November, allowing him to enter the country.
He and Canadian Vasek Pospisil were defeated 4-6, 6-3, 10-5 by Tomislav Brkic and Gonzalo Escobar in their return.
The 21-time Grand Slam champion enjoyed the overwhelming support of the crowd throughout the match, greeted with cheers and chants of ‘Novak, Novak’ as he made his way onto the court.
The 35-year-old, currently ranked number five in the world, stayed behind after the loss to sign autographs and take photos with fans.
He is the top seed in singles in Adelaide and will face Frenchman Constant Lestienne in the first round today as he continues his preparation for the Australian Open, the first major of the season, which begins on January 16.
Djokovic is a nine-time champion in Melbourne and is just one Grand Slam title shy of Rafael Nadal’s men’s record of 22.
Elsewhere, in the Adelaide men’s singles yesterday, British number three Jack Draper defeated South Korean Kwon Soon -woo 6-2 6-1 to move into the second round.
Australian qualifier Alexei Popyrin upset Canada‘s second seed and world number six Felix Auger-Aliassime 6-4, 7-6 (7-5), while world number 11 Holger Rune of Denmark also suffered an early exit at the hands of Japan.
Yoshihito Nishioka, who won 2-6 6-4 6-4.
Last January, when Djokovic arrived in Australia for the 2022 tournament, COVID-19 cases were rising rapidly and government rules required anyone entering the country to be vaccinated unless he had a valid drug exemption.
Djokovic, who was detained by the Australian Border Force upon entering the country and forced to stay in an immigration hotel, claimed that he obtained a medical exemption to defend his title without vaccination because he had recently recovered from COVID.
However, after 10 days of legal arguments, the government ruled that he did not meet the entry requirements, so his visa was canceled and he was automatically banned from entering Australia until 2025.
Djokovic’s arrest dominated headlines in the preparation for the tournament.
, with crowds gathering outside his hotel campaigning for and against his eventual deportation.
Immigration Minister Andrew Giles, whose government came to power in May, lifted the visa ban in November and Djokovic said he was “very happy” to hear the news.
Meanwhile, Rafal Nadal’s poor start to 2023 continued as he fell to a second United Cup loss, beaten 3-6, 6-1, 7-5 by Australia’s Alex de Minaur in what was his last match.
before mounting his Australian Open title.
The 36-year-old world number two was earlier beaten in the inaugural mixed team tournament by Cameron Norrie as Great Britain beat his team from Spain 4-1.
De Minaur’s victory gave Australia a 1–0 lead over Spain in the United Cup final for both teams, neither being able to progress from the group stage with Great Britain top of the table.
In that victory, Taylor Fritz defeated Alex Zverev 6-1 6-4, while Madison Keys defeated Jule Niemeier 6-2 6-3.