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Fire still burns as Djokovic prepares for US return

Novak Djokovic said he still had fire in his belly as the 23-time Grand Slam champion prepares to return to action at this week’s Cincinnati Open after losing the Wimbledon final to Carlos Alcaraz last month.

Djokovic’s bid for a calendar year Grand Slam after winning the Australian Open and French Open titles ended in a five-sets defeat at the All England Club, but the 36-year-old said he was over that disappointment in a day.

The Serbian will now aim to finish the season strongly, starting with the US hardcourt swing. He is returning to the country for the first time in two years after being denied entry due to being unvaccinated for COVID-19.

“I like the feeling that I have after 20 plus years of professional tennis. There’s still a fire going,” Djokovic said on the ATP website ahead of his Cincinnati opener against Alejandro Davidovich Fokina or Tomas Martin Etcheverry.

“There’s still that drive and motivation to really come at the biggest events in sport and try to win, try to win titles and try to bring some good sensation to the crowds.”

Djokovic will compete in Cincinnati for the first time since 2019 as he prepares for the US Open, which starts on August 28.

“If I’m not motivated, I wouldn’t be here,” Djokovic added.

“After many years of professional tennis, I feel I have a choice to play what I really want to. I really wanted to be in Cincinnati and of course the US Open is around the corner.”

The three-time US Open champion was given a taste of the reception he is likely to receive with a massive turnout for his practice session on Saturday.

“I made a joke with my coach and asked him whether we were at the right court, because we thought it was a match,” he said. “It’s really amazing. I’m very grateful for the presence of so many people at a practice session.”

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