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Djoker's warning for 'conservative' tennis amidst rumours of LIV-style tour that top US star says is 'inevitable'

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30th December, 2023
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Rumours are growing that a LIV Golf-style elite tennis tour could be launched, possibly as early as 2025. The outrageous money that a Saudi Arabian-backed league could throw at the world’s best tennis players could be hard to resist.

Djokovic stressed he doesn’t know what is going on behind the scenes, and has only heard some rumours about what could arise in the future.

But for tennis in general, Djokovic is keen to see some changes in order to attract more younger fans. 

“I’m generally always supportive of improving the sport,” Djokovic said in Perth ahead of his appearance for Serbia at the mixed-teams United Cup. 

Watch every Australian Open match ad-free, live & on demand with centre court in 4K Ultra-HD on the home of Grand Slam tennis, Stan Sport.

“I have said this many times before, that I think that tennis is not using its full potential. 

“We are one of the most globally watched and popular sports in the world, but I think that we have been quite conservative and conventional in certain aspects, and that unfortunately hasn’t really been a great appeal to the younger audience. 

“I’m a big supporter of our history and tradition and everything, I think we should always nurture that.

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“But I think we need to try to adjust to the modern times and try to understand what the younger audience wants and really make the tennis more appealing to that group. 

“So that’s in terms of general overview. And where I stand (on talk of a rebel tour), I have no idea what elite tour you’re talking about.

“I have heard rumours as well, but it is, I guess, still early stages and we didn’t see anything concrete out there.”

Women’s world No.5 Jessica Pegula thinks it’s just a matter of time before a rebel tour is launched.

“I think it’s inevitable, to be honest,” the American said.

“There is a lot of talk. I feel like there has been for the past year or so. 

“I feel like it’s going to happen eventually, because money talks, and they have infinite amounts of money and they seem to be involved in every single sport in the world except for ours. 

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“So I’m sure ours is coming.”

The arrival of LIV golf caused controversy, with many critics labelling it as sportswashing designed to cover up Saudi Arabia’s appalling human rights record.

Players who joined that rebel golf tour were banned from the PGA and European Tours. 

World No.10 Taylor Fritz wonders if the same thing will happen in tennis.

“If it happens, I think the biggest question mark is going to be if you compete on that tour, if you still are going to be able to play slams or not,” Fritz said. 

“We’ll see what happens. I can’t really say if it’s a good thing or not until you could see how they would structure the tour, how it would be.

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“I do think the way the tour is now there are lots of things that could be improved.”

Meanwhile, Djokovic says he isn’t feeling as nervous in Australia this year compared to last summer as he attempts to snare grand slam No.25 in his self-proclaimed happy place.

Djokovic made headlines across the world when he was deported from Australia in January 2022 for refusing to take the COVID-19 vaccine.

The 36-year-old returned to the country last summer, and he wore his emotions on his sleeve on the way to winning the Australian Open for a record 10th time.

The tears Djokovic shed upon winning the first grand slam of the year showcased the emotional rollercoaster he had endured to get back to that stage.

Djokovic’s arrival in Australia this time around has been a far more stock-standard affair, and he’ll start the summer competing for Serbia in Perth at the mixed-teams United Cup.

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“It’s a bit different (this year),” Djokovic said on Saturday afternoon.

“Last year coming into Australia, obviously after what happened two years ago, I did feel slightly more nervous, particularly in the first week or so being in Australia.

“But actually people in Adelaide – because that’s where I landed first last year – welcomed me with open arms and lots of support and very kind reception.

“And then I had the perfect record actually, winning both Adelaide and Australian Open.

“That that was pretty much the case when, throughout most of my career, I had the great start of the season in Australia.

“I always felt like that (Australia) was my happy place where I’ve felt great, other than that situation two years ago where obviously it wasn’t really enjoyable.

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“But other than that, I’ve always enjoyed myself, play the best tennis, and so my feelings coming into Australia this year are really positive.”

Djokovic will spearhead team Serbia alongside world No.119 Olga Danilovic.

Novak Djokovic celebrates.

(Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

So how will Djokovic treat the event?

“There’s only one percentage in my head, it’s always 100 per cent really,” Djokovic said.

“I wouldn’t be here if I’m not able to play or give my best in both singles and potentially mixed doubles.

“So, you know, I look forward hopefully contributing with at least one win for my country.”

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Watch every Australian Open match ad-free, live & on demand with centre court in 4K Ultra-HD on the home of Grand Slam tennis, Stan Sport.

Serbia will begin their campaign against China on Sunday evening, pitting Djokovic against world No.58 Zhizhen Zhang in the men’s singles.

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Djokovic has been busy fine-tuning his game since arriving in on Thursday, but he also had time for a trip to Rottnest Island.

© AAP

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