Defending champion, Novak Djokovic hopes to win a new title at Roland-Garros, a few months after the Australian Open tournament, in which he was unable to participate.
Back in January, the eyes of the world were on Novak Djokovic. Arrived in Melbourne to participate in the Australian Open, he had been placed in a detention center due to his invalid vaccination status, in a period still punctuated by the health crisis. After several days of chaos during which the charges had accumulated against him, he had ended up being expelled from the country. At the heart of the debates between those defending him and presenting him as a hero of the free world (his father had called him “Spartacus of the new world”) and those criticizing him for his refusal to be vaccinated against covid-19, ” Nole” recently told Tennis Channel that he suffered “trauma”. “In the following months, I felt that the emotional and mental traces of what had happened were still there. I had never experienced such a situation”.
If he will be able to defend his title in Paris, last February, he however said he was ready not to participate in Roland-Garros and Wimbledon if the vaccination obligation was still imposed. “Yes, it is the price that I am ready to pay”, he said in an interview with the BBC, saying he was not “against vaccination” but for “the freedom to choose what you put in your own body”. Finally, the question ceased to arise for him, when France and England lifted the health restrictions step by step.
Adulated or hated, the Serb will therefore try, in Paris, to make people forget the past controversies. And it is this Monday evening, during the night session of the Philippe-Chatrier court, that the world number 1 will make his debut in the competition. In pursuit of a new title, he will face the Japanese Yoshihito Nishioka. And despite a personality that leaves no one indifferent, he knows that in France, he enjoys an exceptional popularity rating. Saturday, while participating in the traditional Children’s Day, he was a hit. First, his training on the Suzanne-Lenglen court brought together thousands of people who came to cheer him on. Then, he had fun on the central court to the sound of Bob Sinclar, under the cheers of the visitors. Regardless of the controversies, the public did not fail to give him a standing ovation, receiving the player’s smile in return. In the aisles, the youngest did not hide their impatience either at the idea of seeing him on the ground. “It’s Novak, it’s Novak!” We heard here and there.
He celebrated his birthday on Sunday
In search of sporting redemption, the last few months have not been easy for Novak Djokovic. After Australia, he held off before returning to Monte-Carlo, where he lost at the start. Then followed Belgrade and Madrid, where he gradually recovered, without however managing to reach the final. It was in Rome that everything changed. In Italy, he beat Stefanos Tsitsipas and won the first title of his season. “His victory in Rome will boost his confidence but I also think he has a feeling of revenge after everything that has happened to him in recent months. This will give him strength. He comes to Roland-Garros to defend his title, after being prevented from defending his crown at the Australian Open. It’s not nothing for him,” said Mats Wilander, quoted by Eurosport. “It’s like in movies at the cinema with Spider-Man or Superman. The heroes are sometimes in a bad position. But they always end up resurfacing”, for his part explained to “L’Equipe” his trainer Goran Ivanisevic, never stingy with good words to talk about his champion.
And if further proof was needed that at Roland-Garros, the “Djoker” feels good, on Sunday, for his birthday, he blew out his candles with a smile. For his 35th birthday, he even received an electric scooter as a gift from Gilles Moretton, president of the French Tennis Federation and Amélie Mauresmo, tournament director. “Okay, we’re ready. Goodbye”, he joked, helmet on his head before leaving on the handlebars of his machine. Towards a new coronation?