Playing his first match of the season, Novak Djokovic defeated wild card Lorenzo Musetti 6-3, 6-3 in the first round of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship on Monday.
The match marked the top-ranked player’s return to the court and his first match of the year, after being deported from Australia last month ahead of the year’s first Grand Slam in Melbourne.
The 34-year-old Serbian star was twice detained and deported from Australia after an 11-day saga in which he had spent five nights at an immigration detention hotel.
Djokovic received an extremely positive reception from the fans in the stands, with Serbian flags flying throughout and his name ‘Nole, Nole’ being chanted by the fans.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better reception,” the world No. 1 said on court after his 75-minute win.
“I think Dubai is a perfect place for me to start a season because of the support and the fans that showed up tonight and really cheered me on the way they did,” said Djokovic.
“There is also a sizable Serbian community in the UAE, and it was very nice to see Serbian flags around. I felt there was an international crowd supporting me as well, which was very nice. They exceeded my best expectations, so to speak, in terms of the atmosphere.
“It’s definitely one of the best tournaments in the world, actually the best tournament in the world in category 500 that we have on the ATP Tour. Many years in a row, this tournament has been winning awards for a reason,” he added.
Djokovic won the first of his three straight titles in 2009, was victorious again in 2013 and was a finalist in 2015. He won the fifth Dubai title in 2020.