Novak Djokovic Says 'I Miss Competition' After Missing Tournaments amid Vaccine Rules

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured Columnist IVApril 10, 2022

MONTE-CARLO, MONACO - APRIL 10:  Novak Djokovic of Serbia practices during day one of the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters at Monte-Carlo Country Club on April 10, 2022 in Monte-Carlo, Monaco. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Julian Finney/Getty Images

Novak Djokovic has played in just one match in the 2022 season, as his refusal to receive the COVID-19 vaccination has meant he couldn't participate or travel to tournaments like the Australian Open, BNP Paribas Open and Miami Open, among others. 

But the 34-year-old is eager to return to a more regular schedule in the future.

"I miss competition," he told reporters Sunday. "I still feel motivation to be on the tour and compete ... and try to challenge the best players in the world for the biggest titles."

Djokovic will compete at the Monte Carlo Masters in Monaco this week, one of the lead-up tournaments to the French Open in late May. 

"I will try to use [the French Open title] as an inspiration to kick-start the clay-court season the best possible way," he said. "I understand that I probably won't be at my best, particularly at the beginning."

He added, "It will take some time, some matches, to really get in the groove."

Djokovic attempted to play in the Australian Open this season, only to be deported from the country after an 11-day legal battle because of his unvaccinated status.

Since then, he watched Rafael Nadal win that tournament, moving to 21 Grand Slams wins—one more than both Djokovic and Roger Federer—and lost his No. 1 ranking in February, a mark he held for two years. 

He also cut ties with his longtime coach, Marian Vajda, ending a 15-year partnership. 

"The last four, five months have been really challenging for me mentally and emotionally, but here I am and I try to leave all that behind and move on," Djokovic said in Monaco.

Djokovic was superb in 2021, going 55-7 with five singles title, including the Australian Open, Wimbledon and the French Open. He reached the final of the U.S. Open but lost to Daniil Medvedev, denying him the first calendar sweep of the Grand Slams in the men's game since Rod Laver pulled off the trick in 1969. 

When on the court, Djokovic is one of the best players to ever live, one-third of the golden age in men's tennis alongside Federer and Nadal. He's hoping to more regularly be on the court going forward.