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‘It hurts. I’m a human being’: Djokovic on being public enemy No.1

Djokovic has long been disliked by many, not helped by him staging a tournament during tennis’ pandemic lockdown and his anti-vaccination stance.

But it reached fever pitch when a letter he wrote to Australian Open director tournament director Craig Tilley in January leaked. In the letter, he had asked for a shorter quarantine for players and access to practice courts for those stuck in hard lockdown in Melbourne.

Novak Djokovic after claiming his third straight Australian Open men’s title.

Novak Djokovic after claiming his third straight Australian Open men’s title.Credit:Eddie Jim

“Maybe they [Djokovic’s support team] were following when I was not with them, the news and stuff like this, getting involved and speculating, discussing, having conversations between us about what someone said in the media or whatever,” Djokovic said.

“I know that’s completely unnecessary for me. It did come to me. I mean, sometimes it’s really difficult to avoid it in a way. I mean, some of the things that some people say, of course, it does come across here and there when you’re watching a tennis match, commentary, someone mentions it, whatever. In some way or another it comes to you.

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“At the end of the day everyone who has the stage has the right to say what they want to say. It’s a matter on my side whether I’m going to react or not, in which way I’m going to react. I didn’t allow it to hinder my performance. I think winning the trophy is in a way my answer.”

Meanwhile, Djokovic indicated a major change to his approach to the tennis tour with the 33-year-old saying he was going to start caring less about the No.1 ranking, thus playing fewer tournaments in between grand slams.

This would also give him a better chance of ending his career with the most slams. He is currently on 18 behind Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, who are both on 20.

It will also allow him to spend more time with his wife and children. Djokovic became emotional when asked if he missed his family while he was on the road.

“Now, after achieving the historic No.1 for the longest weeks at No.1, it’s going to be a relief for me because I’m going to focus all my attention on slams mostly. When you are going for No.1 rankings, you kind of have to be playing the entire season and you have to be playing well, you have to play all the tournaments,” he said.

“My goals will adapt and will shift a little bit, which means that I will have to adjust also my calendar – not have to, but I will have an opportunity to do that which, as a father and a husband, I’m really looking forward to that. Judging by what we’re seeing around the world, having family on the road with me will be a very difficult task.

“I haven’t made any commitment [to play] actually after Australia.”

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