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Novak Djokovic ‘surprised pleasantly’ by Kyrgios support during visa saga, gets warm welcome in Dubai before tennis tournament

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Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic said he was “surprised pleasantly” by the support he received from Nick Kyrgios during his deportation saga in Australia.

Djokovic received a warm welcome in Dubai, where he visited the world’s fair following the global drama around his decision to remain unvaccinated.

After being twice detained and deported from Australia ahead of the year’s first Grand Slam Tournament last month, Djokovic was in the United Arab Emirates for the Duty Free Tennis Championships.

“I’m excited to go out on the tennis court next Monday,” he said when asked by The Associated Press how he feels after the recent twists and turns of the legal dispute over his travel visa. “I miss tennis honestly after everything that has happened.”

During an interview that aired on Serbian TV the world No.1 was asked various questions relating to his controversial short stay in Australia.

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The line of questioning turned to the support the star received during his time in hotel detention, with the Serbian icon highlighting the widespread encouragement from the tennis community, even Kyrgios.

The Australian had been a vocal critic of Djokovic in the past, but the world No.113 was one of the first to take exception to the way the Djokovic was treated upon his arrival into the country.

“Kyrgios surprised me pleasantly, I thanked him and all the others who stood up for me, Alize Cornet for instance,” Djokovic said.

“I received a lot of messages privately from some of the players, but they didn’t want to speak publicly. I understand it, the situation was complicated.

Djokovic this week doubled down on his decision to stay unvaccinated. The No. 1-ranked tennis player said he would skip the French Open, Wimbledon and other tournaments if he was required to get a coronavirus vaccine to compete.

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The government of Dubai does not require visitors to be vaccinated to enter. The men’s tennis tour event begins next week.

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As he ambled into the pavilion Thursday surrounded by a sea of journalists, fans clapped and chanted “Nole,” his nickname.

Djokovic posed for selfies with adoring fans and set off on a guided tour of Serbia’s national pavilion at Expo 2020 days before he was due to hit the courts. The pavilion was hosting an event for his foundation, the Novak Djokovic Foundation, which promotes early childhood education in Serbia.

“I’m proud to be on this stage,” Djokovic said after his wife Jelena gave a presentation about the foundation’s work with children.

He said it was often hard to be involved as much as he wanted to be with the foundation given his whirlwind tournament schedule.

But he quickly acknowledged: “It’s not as busy as it used to be.”

The audience burst into applause.

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