Djokovic says the 'great feeling still there' in Indian Wells

March 11, 2024 12:31 pm

[Source: Reuters]

Novak Djokovic said he felt right at home at Indian Wells after being away from the tournament for five years and would relish capturing a record sixth crown in the California desert.

The world number one from Serbia was pushed hard by Aleksandar Vukic in his first match since falling in the Australian Open semi-finals six weeks ago but was able to find an extra gear in the third set to advance 6-2 5-7 6-3.

“It’s been five years and the great feeling is still there,” Djokovic told reporters after the match, where he received a warm welcome.

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“Enjoyed myself very much. Beautiful stadium. Great atmosphere. Obviously I was a bit nervous at the beginning, whether I’m going to start off well. Haven’t played a match in more than five weeks.”

The Masters 1000 tournament was the first major sporting event to be canceled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the 24-time Grand Slam champion had been unable to return to the U.S. since then due to travel restrictions.

This week he showed little interest in discussing his decision to not get vaccinated against the virus but said he knew he would eventually be allowed to return if he remained patient.

He said he expects to get better as the tournament wears on and said he would love to lift the trophy and break his tie with Roger Federer of five Indian Wells titles apiece.

“Hopefully the rust is a bit off,” he said.

“I know I can always produce better tennis. Obviously very self-critical, and I think to some extent it’s also important because then it puts you in the right mindset of wanting to work more.

“Trying to perfect your game and right the wrongs that you’ve done in a previous match or previous practice session.”

Djokovic faces 20-year-old Italian lucky loser Luca Nardi in the third round on Monday.