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Novak Djokovic ‘glad to be back’ on American soil after two-year absence

Novak Djokovic is preparing to play on American soil for the first time since 2021 after the Covid vaccine requirement for non-US travelers was lifted earlier this year.

Djokovic, who is unvaccinated against Covid-19, will play at the Western & Southern Open in the Cincinnati suburb of Mason, Ohio, this week, before heading to the US Open, the final grand slam of the calendar year, in New York later this month.

His last match in the States was at the 2021 US Open when he lost to Daniil Medvedev in the final.

Asked about his absence from US tournaments since then, the Serbian star told reporters on Sunday: “The reason why I was not here for two years, I have zero regret on that. I’m just glad to be back.

“I’ve had plenty of success on American soil with Indian Wells, Miami, obviously Canada and here, [I’ve] won many times at these Masters 1,000 events, all of them. Of course, the US Open as well being the pinnacle of the hard-court season – I’m just excited.”

Djokovic had applied for a visa to compete at Indian Wells in California and at the Miami Open earlier this year but wasn’t granted special permission to enter the US.

Several weeks later, the Department of Homeland Security announced that, from May 12, non-US travelers entering the country would no longer have to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19.

Having won a men’s record 23rd grand slam singles title at the French Open earlier this year, the 36-year-old Djokovic then reached the Wimbledon final but lost to Spain’s Carlos Alcaraz in a thrilling five-set encounter.

Djokovic and Alcaraz, the top two players in the world rankings, are both scheduled to compete at the Western & Southern Open this week having received byes into the second round.

Djokovic, also due to play doubles on Tuesday alongside compatriot Nikola Ćaćić, will face either Spain’s Alejandro Davidovich Fokina or Argentina’s Tomás Martín Etcheverry, while Alcaraz plays Australian Jordan Thompson on Tuesday.

Regarding his defeat in the Wimbledon final, Djokovic said on Sunday that he was “over it in a day” and looking forward to the hard-court swing.

“After 20-plus years of professional tennis, there’s still fire going,” he said. “There’s still that drive and motivation to really come at the biggest tournament in sport and try to win titles and try to bring some good, I guess, sensations to the crowd.”

This year’s US Open, which Djokovic will attempt to win for a fourth time, begins on August 28 and concludes on September 10.

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