Novak Djokovic has arrived in Valencia ahead of his rapid return to action after his US Open win and he arrived with messages of support for his great rival Carlos Alcaraz.
Djokovic generally takes time away from the court after major championships, but he has answered the call of his national team and will play for Serbia in two Davis Cup ties this weekend.
Meanwhile, Alcaraz took an alternative decision after his exit at the semi-finals stage of the US Open, as he pulled out of the Spain team and said his body needed time to recover.
That decision has severely tweaked the Spain team as they play matches on home soil, with their 3-0 defeat against Czechia on Tuesday highlighted how much they missed their star man.
Alcaraz’s absence also denied the tennis world a chance to see him play against Djokovic in the Davis Cup format, as Serbia are set to take on Spain this Friday.
Yet Djokovic has leapt to the defence of his young rival, as he spoke to the media in Spain.
“Maybe you guys are upset he’s not playing for Spain, because he’s 20 years old and I’m 36, and how he’s tired and I’m not,” said Djokovic, who has been back in training with the Serbian team ahead of his return to action.
“It’s important to understand he’s got a lot of time ahead of him.
“He already played for Spain last year, you can’t forget that.
“He won the US Open last year and after a few days he was here playing for his heart and his passion for his country.
“I have skipped the Davis Cup several times, I know the backlash and reaction from my country was not so great and there’s a lot of negativity when you skip playing for your country.
“It’s difficult to always be perfect and always available. We’re part of an individual sport, you represent your country but also yourself and there are a lot of tournaments, and he has played a lot.
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Djokovic went on to suggest his age should be not a factor in his decision to pull out of Davis Cup duty, with the injury he picked up at the US Open certain to have been a factor in his decision.
“Even though he’s 20 years old, it doesn’t mean he’s a Superman.
“He needs to rest as well. It’s better for us, the Serbian team that he’s not here, honestly, but I’m sure he’ll be back and bring a lot of joy to Spain.”
Djokovic went on to concede he did not feel at his best physically after his draining run at the US Open, but he felt compelled to join his Serbian teammates in the chase for more Davis Cup glory.
“I don’t feel very fresh obviously after an exhausting several months with a lot of matches, but I think this is a positive tiredness for the success that I had in America,” he added.
“There’s not much time to recover, I have to try and maintain the intensity and try to do everything I can to adapt my body and myself to the new time zone and new conditions and contribute to my country with the points.”
Serbia won the Davis Cup for their one and only victory in the competition in 2010, with Djokovic clearly keen to try and inspire a repeat when the finals are staged in Malaga in November.
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