Having basked during the past fortnight in what many players believe were luxurious quarantine conditions in Adelaide as compared to theirs in Melbourne, Novak Djokovic emerged from the confinement, injured.
I'm sorry that I didn't step on the court from the beginning. I had to do some treatment with my physio and I wasn't feeling my best the last couple of days, Novak Djokovic
The world No.1 who was due to play in on Friday, failed to turn up for the first set against the young Italian Jannik Sinner leaving Filip Krajiinovic to take his place at ‘A Day at the Drive’ exhibition.
Djokovic revealed he has picked up a painful blister on his racket hand which isn’t very promising bearing in mind next week he is due to lead Serbia in the defence of the ATP Cup, and the following week try and defend his Australian Open title.
Following treatment to the blister, Djokovic did arrive on court to the delight of the packed crowd on Memorial Drive to fulfil his obligation by playing a second set in which he beat Sinner 6-3.
“I’m sorry that I didn’t step on the court from the beginning. I had to do some treatment with my physio and I wasn’t feeling my best the last couple of days,” the current Australian Open champion said.
“I didn’t know how I was going to react, but I wanted to play, I wanted to get out here.
“Thank you so much for making our day and making our year. We didn’t play in front of this big a crowd in 12-months, so this is something very special,” he added.
The AFP news agency reported that television pictures showed a raw blister on the palm of his right hand, where he grips his racket and while Djokovic said it was painful, it didn’t appear to hamper his shot-making.
“It’s not easy, but it’s part of what we do. We’re professional athletes, we learn over the years to play with the pain. It’s just a question of whether the pain is bearable or not,” he said.
“So obviously, coming off a hard training block and having the ATP Cup and Australian Open around the corner, you don’t want to risk it too much.
“But the emotion was so strong in me to come out on the court today, seeing almost full stands, I just had to play. That’s it, I had to play.”
The exhibition also features Serena Williams against Naomi Osaka and Rafa Nadal playing Dominic Thiem with the national Aussie heroine Ashleigh Barty closing the day against Simona Halep.
Like Djokovic, they have all served the mandatory 14 days’ quarantine in Adelaide where they were allowed five hours a day to practice on court,