Novak Djokovic said he misses competing at the biggest tournaments in the United States and is delighted to be back after easily winning his first singles match in two years at the Cincinnati Open on Wednesday.
The 23-time Grand Slam champion was not allowed to compete in the US last year and earlier this year due to his refusal to get a COVID-19 vaccine, but returned after the US government eased regulations for travel. Foreign visitors have not been vaccinated in May.
Playing singles in Cincinnati for the first time since 2019, the 36-year-old Serbian won the first set 6-4 against Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, who later retired due to back problems.
“Time passes fast. Four years is like yesterday. So it’s great to be back,” Djokovic told reporters. “I have some really good memories from this tournament.
“Winning it in 2018 was obviously a highlight for me, because it was the only Masters that I hadn’t won in years. I think I lost four or five finals mainly to Roger (Federer).
“But I have played well in the past and am really excited to have the opportunity to return to the United States. It’s been two years. I remember it. Some of the biggest tournaments in our sport are held on American soil. I’m just excited to play tennis.”
World number two Djokovic, who lost to Carlos Alcaraz in the Wimbledon final last month, is looking to claim his third Grand Slam title of the season on Aug. 11-September 28. 10 US Open tournaments.
The New York runner-up in 2021 last played on hard courts in March and said it was too early to judge his form after his first game back was not good.
“Some positives, some negatives. But at the end of the day, it is expected. First match back,” said Djokovic, who will meet fellow veteran Gael Monfils next.
“It’s probably going to take me a few sets to really get things on track.”