Six-times Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic returned to competitive tennis on wednesday night after a six months lay off due to an elbow injury to win 6-1 6-4 against world number 5, Dominic Thiem, at the Kooyong Classic exhibition tournament.
The former world number one Djokovic pulled out of a tournament in Abu Dhabi last week because of reoccurring problems on his right elbow and wore a sleeve over the joint during his round-robin match against Thiem who only arrived in Melbourne on Monday night after four days in bed with a virus.
In a condition that looks like a major boost for Melbourne Park organisers, who already will be without the likes of Andy Murray and Kei Nishikori for next week’s Australian Open due to injury, Djokovic showed no signs of discomfort as he ousted Thiem three times to win the first set in just 21 minutes.
The Serbian said he intends to play in the Australian Open “for now” after bein gasked about his intentions for the imminent tournament.
“There was a doubt, especially after I pulled out of the first week of the year,” said Djokovic.
“I don’t say I’m at 100%, I can only say that when I get the feel of a tournament.
“Ideally I would have had another tournament before the start of the Open, but it was not meant to be.”
“It was a great start, it feels really good to be back on the court,’ a beaming Djokovic said in an on-court interview after his first competitive set since Wimbledon last year.
“I can’t stop laughing outside and inside. It’s a great joy, I love this sport, it’s a great passion of mine so I missed it.
He went further and said:
“I wasn’t that nervous, although I had that matchplay attitude… I wanted to be back on court, unfortunately the elbow wouldn’t let me last week.’
Novak Djokovic who has dropped to 14th in the world ATP ranking after his long absence from the game, will be looking to win a record seventh Australian Open title when the tournament starts January 15 and will be one to avoided during the draw on Thrusday
“This has been a tough period for me, obviously injury is the greatest enemy a professional athlete can have, ‘You can’t do anything about it except try to recover as quickly as you can added the 30-year-old Serbian.
“The Australian Open is the big one, it’s the one I wanted to be ready for. It’s a great start.’
Meanwhile, Marin Cilic, another former champion also had something close to a bad day at the former venue of the Australian Open with the Croatian world No 6 losing 6-7(3), 6-4, 7-5 to Australian Matthew Ebden.