Novak Djokovic went for a bare-footed walk in the park after completing his quarantine before making a bizarre return to action in Adelaide yesterday.
The world No.1 was mobbed by fans as he enjoyed his first taste of freedom following a two-week lockdown where he was only allowed out of his hotel to practice.
“I think we take it for granted these days to be free to be able to walk on the ground,” he said.
The defending Australian Open champion then announced he could not play in a charity exhibition match against Jannick Sinner because of blisters – and his place was taken by Filip Krajinovic.
But after watching his fellow Serb win the first set 6-3, the 17-time Major winner could not resist coming on court to win the second set by the same score in front of 4,000 fans.
“I’m sorry that I didn’t step in on the court from the beginning,” said Djokovic.
“I had to do some treatment with my physio, I wasn’t feeling my best for the last two days and I didn’t know how I was going to react.”
“Having an ATP Cup and Australia Open around the corner, you don’t want to risk it too much. But the emotion was so strong in me to come out on the court today, seeing these full stands I had to play. We didn’t play in front of this big a crowd in 12 months, so this is very special.”
The Serb, who attracted fierce criticism Down Under for calling for a relaxation in quarantine conditions, added: “It was worth it because you guys made it very special for us.”
Serena Williams saw off her fellow American Naomi Osaka 6-2 2-6 10-7 after taking her
three-year old daughter Alexis Olympia Jr to the zoo to see koalas and kangeroos
“We had a calendar in our room and every day we marked an X on the days that went by and had a big circle on the quarantine ending day,” said the 23-time Grand Slam winner.
In the evening session, Rafa Nadal beat Dominic Thiem 7-5 6-4 and world No.2 Simona Halep triumphed over world No.1 Ash Barty 3-6 6-1 10-8.
British No.2 Heather Watson posted: “FINALLY FREE” on social media as she followed 15 days of hard lockdown in Melbourne by heading to the Rod Laver Arena for a midnight practice session.
Former champion Stan Wawrinka has revealed he contracted Covid-19 over Christmas.
“I’m starting to feel better after two week here,” said the Swiss, 35.