Novak Djokovic admits US Open ban gave him ‘extra motivation’

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Novak Djokovic has sent a defiant message ahead of the last stretch of the 2022 tennis season after making a winning return to competition in Tel Aviv. The world No 7 played and won his first tournament in three months at last week’s ATP 250 event, admitting that the time he missed as a result of his US Open ban gave him “extra motivation”. And he has now set his sights on making up for lost time by winning even more titles.

Djokovic made his return at last week’s Tel Aviv Open, playing his first tournament since winning Wimbledon in July. The Serb was left unable to play the entire North American hard-court swing as a result of his unvaccinated status, and has now confessed that his time away from the tour has given him even more motivation.

Sharing his goal for the rest of the season, the 35-year-old said: “My approach is to win tournaments wherever I am and I’m glad that I have a team of people around me that makes sure that I am in the best shape in order to be a contender to win titles.”

And Djokovic has already been able to achieve his goal by lifting his 89th career title in Tel Aviv last week, explaining how his US Open ban helped him achieve a flawless run in Israel where he failed to drop a set all week. “That’s why I came to Israel, to try to win the title,” he continued.

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“First time playing here [since a] Davis Cup tie more than 15 years ago, so it was a really amazing experience. I played some very good tennis, I think. I [didn’t] drop a set the entire week.

“I hadn’t played a tournament in three months, so it was really extra motivation for me to really do well, particularly because people have been so friendly and so supportive of me throughout the week.”

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The world No 7 now has a packed schedule to make up for all the tournaments and ranking points he missed out on, as he bids to qualify for the season-ending ATP Finals. Only the eight men who have earned the most points in 2022 will get a place at the tournament but by winning a Grand Slam this year, Djokovic only needs to finish in the top 20 of the race to qualify and he currently sits at No 15.

He will now play this week’s ATP 500 in Astana before heading to the last Masters 1000 of the year in Paris-Bercy at the end of the month. And he is raring to go at the Astana Open after a successful week in Tel Aviv, warning his opponents: “I’m taking some great confidence into next week as well. Just everything really that we experienced this week was positive.”

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