The nine-times Australian Open champion shows no sign of a hangover from last year’s controversy and is the player to beat

In the hours after Novak Djokovic was briefly freed from government custody in Melbourne last year, his visa cancellation overturned on procedural grounds, he headed straight for the tennis court to resume his suspended preparation for the Australian Open. His first hitting session was played out behind closed doors at night, but by the time he returned in the day, chaos reigned over Melbourne Park. Fans and journalists alike tried to slip inside Rod Laver Arena, drones whirled overhead just to get an unauthorised glimpse of him in action.

Outside of Park Hotel, where he was being detained, Djokovic’s fans congregated to dance and cheer, activists marked their presence in support of the dozens of asylum seekers also being held there and anti-vaxxers could not stay away. When Djokovic visited his lawyers upon his return to government custody, his supporters crowded the office and any car that left before being teargassed in the middle of Melbourne’s central business district.

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