Djoker backs ATP Cup revamp in Brisbane return
IT'S been more than a decade since Novak Djokovic set foot on Pat Rafter Arena but the world No.2 says he's ready to continue his Australian 'love affair' ahead of Brisbane's inaugural ATP Cup tournament.
A buoyant Djokovic touched down at Brisbane International Airport this morning to begin preparations alongside his Serbian teammates for their upcoming Group A clashes with France, South Africa and Chile in a jam-packed week of tennis featuring 24 teams competing in six groups across the country.
'The Joker' hasn't played in Brisbane since 2009's shock first-round loss to Latvia's Ernests Gulbis but remains an undisputed champion Down Under with seven Australian Open wins since 2008.
Watch over 50 sports LIVE on Kayo! Stream to your TV, mobile, tablet or computer. Just $25/month, cancel anytime. New to Kayo? Get your 14-day free trial & start streaming instantly >
"I love it here," Djokovic said on Monday morning.
"I've had an amazing ten years in Australia going back to the first grand slam that I won in Melbourne in 2008 and ever since then it has been a love affair, especially with Melbourne but also other cities in Australia."
While the week-long tournament is largely a warm-up for Djokovic's Australian Open title defence, the 32-year-old is a strong supporter of the ATP Cup's new country-based format and backed its longevity.
"I think it's great for our sport that we can introduce this innovation in a country that loves tennis," Djokovic said.
"(Australia) is the best place to accommodate the new concept and new format of competition and it's exciting for a lot of players to represent their country.
"In our sport, we don't have too many opportunities to play for our country so it has an element of an individual tournament but it's combined with team concepts.
"I love wearing the colours of my country and hopefully we can have good support and a lot of fun - when you start something new, you can't expect everything to go perfectly and of course there's always things people can point out …. but a new competition is great for our sport."
Djokovic has had little time to rest since his round robin exit at the 2019 ATP finals but the man renowned for his fitness is already back in action following an intensive training camp in Dubai and a third-place finish in Abu Dhabi's Mubadala WTC event.
The 16-time Grand Slam winner even joined soccer prodigy Cristiano Ronaldo for a one-off session which Djokovic described as "intense".
"It's so impressive to see his work ethic and how professional he is - just lots of respect for everything he's done in his career," Djokovic said.
Serbia kicks off its ATP Cup campaign on Saturday afternoon against South Africa with matches commencing 5.30pm at Pat Rafter Arena.