While the Serb will make a delayed return to the United Arab Emirates, his rival Rafael Nadal will try to confirm his return to the fore in Acapulco after having offered himself a 21st Grand Slam title in Melbourne at the end of January, a record for men.

The Spaniard had thus exceeded by one unit in the list of "Major" the Swiss Roger Federer, still recovering, and therefore Djokovic, whose participation canceled at the Australian Open, against a backdrop of health protocols, had hit the headlines. .

To justify his arrival in Australia without having been vaccinated, the 34-year-old Serb had requested, on the grounds of having contracted covid a few weeks earlier, an exemption which had never been granted to him.

And his visa had been definitively canceled after 15 days of an unprecedented controversy.

Since then, Djokovic has rested in Serbia, with his family, and this week he came out of his silence, for the BBC and then Serbian television.

He is not "anti-vax", he made it clear, but wishes to continue to "control what we inject" into his body.

Serbian champion Novak Djokovic in training before the kick-off of the Dubai tournament in the United Arab Emirates, February 20, 2022 Karim SAHIB AFP

He also said he was "ready to pay the price" for his convictions even if it should cost him his participation in the three other major tournaments this season, namely Roland-Garros (May 22-June 5), Wimbledon (June 27- July 10), the US Open (August 29-September 11), and de facto the race for the record.

"We all hope that the health crisis will evolve in a positive direction, but if that does not change, we will need a vaccination pass and therefore Novak Djokovic will not be with us" at Roland-Garros, said French Sports Minister Roxana. Maracineanu, at the microphone of RTL on Sunday.

No vaccine in Dubai

In Dubai, the world No.1 can participate in the tournament because a coronavirus vaccine is not mandatory to enter the Emirates, where 895 new cases were announced on Thursday.

"Knowing that I was coming to Dubai, I had something to prepare for, I had a goal. So now that I'm here I can say that I'm as prepared as I can be and I'm excited to play on the circuit again," said "Djoko", chasing a sixth title in Dubai, at a press conference on Sunday.

After Dubai, he is on the entry list for the Indian Wells Masters 1000 (March 7-20), in the Californian desert.

But he does not have the right to enter American territory without being vaccinated.

Novak Djokovic training in Melbourne ahead of his expulsion ahead of the Australian Open on January 12, 2022 William WEST AFP/Archives

"I can't really choose right now. It's really about where I can go and play. Wherever an opportunity comes up I'll probably use it and go play because that's always what I like to do," said the world No.1.

Reunion with Musetti

Monday, Djokovic will find the young Lorenzo Musetti (19 years old, 57th in the world) who had given him a hard time in June in his quest for a second trophy at Roland-Garros.

During the round of 16 in Paris, the Serbian champion had lost the first two sets before reversing the trend then Musetti had finally given up in the fifth set (6-7 (7/9), 6-7 (2/7) , 6-1, 6-0, 4-0).

For Djokovic, the challenge will also be to keep the chair of king of the ATP that the world No.2, the Russian Daniil Medvedev, engaged in the Acapulco tournament, can delight him at the end of the week.

The finalist of the last Australian Open can climb to the top if he wins the title in Mexico regardless of the result of "Djoko" in the Emirates.

A giant portrait of Novak Djokovic on a wall in a street in Belgrade, Serbia, January 16, 2022 Andrej ISAKOVIC AFP / Archives

"If it happens this week, I will be the first to congratulate him," Djokovic said of the Russian.

But the competition promises to be tough in Acapulco with, in addition to Nadal initially opposed to the American Reilly Opelka, the Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas and the German Alexander Zverev.

For his part, Djokovic hopes to quickly find good feelings, he who has not played in competition since December 3 and a defeat in Madrid with Serbia against Croatia in the semi-finals of the Davis Cup.

© 2022 AFP