Tennis legend Novak Djokovic landed in Israel for a tournament on Monday, saying he was “excited” to return to the country.
The Serbian tennis star will compete in the Tel Aviv Watergen Open 2022 competition at the Expo Tel Aviv compound this week.
He was welcomed at the Ben Gurion Airport’s VIP Fattal Terminal by Association of Tennis Professionals officials, Channel 12 reported.
He wrote in a guest book at the terminal, “Shalom Israel. I am very happy and excited to be back in Israel. Looking forward to a great experience.”
Also competing in Tel Aviv are top players Marin Čilić, Diego Schwartzman, Botic van de Zandschulp and Dominic Thiem. The tournament kicked off on Sunday and will continue for a week.
The tournament is part of the ATP 250 World Series and is in Israel for the first time since 1996.
Djokovic, 35, will be competing in his first tournament in Israel in 16 years. His last competitive matchup was a Davis Cup match played in Ramat Hasharon in 2006.
He was forced to pull out of the US Open last month because he is not vaccinated against COVID-19. Foreign citizens who have not been vaccinated against the virus are currently unable to enter the US or Canada, and Djokovic has said he won’t get the shots, even if that prevents him from playing in certain tournaments.
Djokovic also missed the Australian Open in January, despite claiming to have received a government exemption to play in the tournament without proof of vaccination.
Djokovic has spent more weeks at No. 1 than anyone else in the history of the ATP rankings. The Serbian sits on 21 grand slam titles and is currently ranked 6th in the world.