Novak Djokovic outlines his ambitions as he prepares for ATP Tour return

Kevin Palmer
Novak Djokovic press conference
Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic has insisted his ambition to achieve more in the game is burning brightly as he prepares to return to the ATP Tour.

Djokovic has arrived in Tel Aviv to play in his first regular tour event since he won the ATP Masters 1000 title in Rome in May, with his absence from ATP events due to his decision to avoid being vaccinated against Covid-19.

There were doubts over his participation in the Israeli event as he was struggling with a wrist injury in his Laver Cup defeat against Felix Auger Aliassime on Sunday.

Yet he has insisted he is ready to compete in an event that will also see him playing doubles with veteran Israeli player Jonathan Erlich.

“I still want to play tennis even though I achieved pretty much everything that you can achieve in tennis,” Djokovic told the ATP.

“I still have passion and hunger to play at a highest professional level.

“I was committed to play at Laver Cup and I also wanted to play for three weeks in a row, so Tel Aviv was a perfect choice for me.

“Also because I haven’t been here for a while and the last time here I had a fantastic experience in the Davis Cup (in 2018).

“It was the loudest atmosphere I ever experienced, very passionate people for sport here. I love to see that.

“I also visited Jerusalem on my second visit to Israel, but it was a while ago. I forgot many things, so I’ll definitely come back again

“This week is mostly about tennis for me, I hope to play well here and to see a lot of people come to watch my matches.”

Djokovic also reflected on his contribution to Roger Federer’s farewell event at the Laver Cup in London last weekend, as he paid a fresh tribute to his old rival.

“I have a massive respect for Roger, and to what he had contributed to our sport,” he stated.

“He had an epic career, he can be proud of it. He’s one of the most recognised athletes of all time. His retirement is a sad moment for tennis.

“I think we would all agree this was one of the most beautiful moments anyone has experienced live or on a tennis court worldwide.

“We all knew it would be an emotional farewell for Roger but I think we were all taken away by the moment.

“At the same time it is a mix of emotions. Sadness because one of the greatest athletes of all time is leaving the sport but on the other hand seeing him happy with the way it all played out, I was just very grateful and privileged to be alongside other Team World and Europe players to witness that.

“It was one of the most beautiful moments I have ever experienced in my life, for sure.”

Djokovic is playing in Israel as he chases a place in the end-of-year ATP Tour finals in Turin, but he should seal one of the places up for grabs in an event that will welcome the game’s top eight to play.

After a year that has seen Djokovic miss out on thousands of ranking points due to his vaccine status, he finds himself down in 15th place in the ATP Race to Turin.

His victory at Wimbledon in July will be enough to get him into the ATP finals so long as he stays in the top 20 of the ATP Race rankings, but he needs to make sure he picks up some points in the next few weeks.

“The goal is to try to make Turin,” he said at the Laver Cup on Sunday.

“I’m in a good position, still, I think 15 or 16 on the (ATP) Race (he is currently 15th). “You’ve got to be top 20 as a Grand Slam winner. That’s the rule in order to make cut and qualify for Turin.

“I will play Tel Aviv and play an (ATP) 500 in Kazakhstan, and then the schedule was to play Bercy and Turin.

“So let’s see if it stays this way or something changes. But my thoughts are obviously the next few weeks and then I will take it from there.”