The Associated Press MELBOURNE (AP) — Novak Djokovic stopped quickly, abruptly changed directions and stabbed at a full-stretch volley that whizzed past Dominic Thiem for a winner.
He then turned and beamed. Djokovic is back after the longest injury layoff of his career, and he’s clearly enjoying himself on the court again.
Wearing a compression sleeve on his right arm to protect his troublesome elbow, Djokovic dominated the fifth-ranked Thiem 6-1, 6-4 on Wednesday in an exhibition match at the Kooyong Classic, a key tune-up event for next week’s Australian Open.
Still smiling afterward, Djokovic said he’d had doubts whether he’d be ready to play the first Grand Slam of the year, but the win over Thiem was a major confidence boost.
“Obviously, I was waiting for this moment for six months to get out on the court and play a match,” he said. “Also, I got a great opponent today, the No. 5 in the world, so it was a fantastic test for me to see where I am.”
Djokovic, who had been sidelined with the elbow injury since a quarterfinal loss at Wimbledon last year, initially planned to play in an exhibition event in Abu Dhabi and then a tournament in Qatar to start the season, but withdrew from both due to lingering pain in his elbow.
He still traveled to Melbourne hoping to be fit to play in the Australian Open, where he’s won six of his 12 career Grand Slam titles.