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Novak Djokovic pinpoints main problem after shock Dubai defeat in boost for Rafael Nadal

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NOVAK DJOKOVIC lost to Jiri Vesely at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.

Novak Djokovic has admitted he’s been hindered by a lack of match play after finding himself forced out of tournaments over his vaccination status. The world No 1 was left unable to play the Australian Open last month and only started his season in Dubai this week, where he was upset by qualifier Jiri Vesely.

jokovic’s schedule is currently limited as he remains unvaccinated.

The 20-time Grand Slam champion was deported from the country on the eve of the Australian Open last month after having his visa cancelled twice, with the Federal Court ruling that his presence could “excite anti-vax sentiment”.

He is now set to miss next month’s Masters 1000s in Indian Wells and Miami with the United States only allowing fully vaccinated visitors.

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The Serb has already admitted he will put his beliefs above tournaments, admitting he would miss the likes of Wimbledon and the French Open if they required vaccination.

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“Yes, that is the price that I’m willing to pay,” he told the BBC in his first in-depth interview since his ordeal in Melbourne.

“Because the principles of decision making on my body are more important than any title or anything else.”

But it could prove costly for Djokovic, who has now admitted he has been hampered by his lack of matches.

The current world No 1 – who will lose the spot to Daniil Medvedev on Monday – only started his season at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships this week.

After looking his dominant self against Lorenzo Musetti and Karen Khachanov, he suffered a shock defeat to qualifier Jiri Vesely in the quarter-finals, with the world No 123 needing less than two hours to seal a 6-4 7-6(4) victory.

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Following his upset loss, the five-time Dubai champion has now admitted he’s feeling rusty with his lack of match play – which will come as a boost to Rafael Nadal because the Serb will likely have little match time before Slams this year even if he is allowed to play them.

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“I’m lacking a little bit of the match play,” Djokovic said after his straight-sets loss.

“You can see that, I’m still finding the groove on the court.”

The 86-time title winner shared his desire to get more matches under his belt but will struggle to in the next few months with the tournament director of the Monte Carlo Masters – the first big tournament after the sunshine double – admitting that Djokovic could be kept out of the tournament if he remains unvaccinated.

“The more matches I play, the more comfortable I get on the court,” the 34-year-old said following his loss in Dubai.

“I need the match play. I didn’t have many matches at all last few months. Let’s see.

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“Obviously I’ll have to follow the situation, see how it goes. Wherever I get an opportunity to play, I will. Hopefully that will be soon.”