Novak Djokovic says he still has plenty of love and admiration for Australia, despite being deported due to the vaccine mandates.

Djokovic says he received the reception he wished for in his triumphant return to singles action in Australia.

Djokovic booked a spot in the second round of the Adelaide International 1 with a thumping 6-3 6-2 win over Frenchman Constant Lestienne on Tuesday.

It was his first singles match in Australia since being deported in January 2022 for refusing to have the COVID-19 vaccine.

The 21-time grand slam champion received a rousing reception when he stepped out on court on Tuesday, and he didn’t disappoint his adoring fans.

Djokovic’s power, court speed, and deft work at the net proved too much to handle for Lestienne, with the match lasting just 74 minutes.

The world No.5, who lost his low-key doubles match on Monday, repeatedly touched his heart before signalling to the crowd and the sky upon winning his singles match.

He also kissed his hand and touched the court, later saying he was delighted to be back in the country where he’s won nine of his 21 grand slam trophies.

“I’m glad to be back in Australia,” Djokovic said in his post-match on-court interview.

“Thank you all for coming out today. Thank you for giving me the welcome that I could only wish for.

“Over the years, Australia has been the place where I’ve played my best tennis, without a doubt.

“If I have to pick one country where I’ve had the most success, which treated me in the best way in terms of tennis, it’s here, definitely.

“Even the circumstances last year, it wasn’t easy for anybody. But I’m just happy to be here focusing on tennis, and enjoying my time with you guys.”

The result sets up a round of 16 clash with Frenchman Quentin Halys, who defeated Australian Jordan Thompson in straight sets on Monday. Djokovic lost only five points on serve during the opening set, but did have to save a break point in the fifth game.

Image: Getty

This article first appeared on Over60.