Out then in, Djokovic plays a set in Adelaide exhibition

A Day at the Drive Exhibition

MELBOURNE (Reuters) – World number one Novak Djokovic pulled out of an Adelaide exhibition because of a blistered hand on Friday before appearing on court to play a set after all, helping his compatriot Filip Krajinovic beat Jannik Sinner.

Djokovic was scheduled to kick off the “Day at the Drive” event in front of a crowd of 4,000 at Adelaide’s Memorial Drive Tennis Club but pulled out minutes before he was due on court and was replaced by Krajinovic.

After his practice partner had won the first set, however, Djokovic bounded into the arena and proceeded to wrap up a 6-3 6-3 win over the Italian teenager.

“I’m sorry that I didn’t step in on the court from the beginning,” said Djokovic, who was celebrating his first day of freedom after 14 days in quarantine.

“I had to do some treatment with my physio, I wasn’t feeling my best for the last two days and I didn’t know how I was going to react.”

Djokovic looked to be largely unhindered by the nasty-looking blister on the palm of his right hand.

“It’s not easy but it’s part of what we do, we’re professional athletes, we learn over the years to play with the pain,” he added.

Djokovic and Krajinovic will join forces again in the Serbia team defending the ATP Cup in Melbourne next week before the former launches his bid for a ninth Australian Open title from Feb. 8.

Serena Williams beat Naomi Osaka 6-2 2-6 (10-7) in a ‘super breaker’ in the second match with both players united in their excitement at playing in front of fans.

“We haven’t played in front of a crowd in over a year so it’s been a really long time,” said Williams, who has been isolating with her three-year-old daughter.

“We were so happy just to be here. Now it’s worth it.”

A few hours later Rafa Nadal took down Dominic Thiem 7-5 6-4 in a highly entertaining encounter between the men’s world number two and three under artificial lights.

Women’s world number one Ash Barty and number two Simona Halep then met in the final match to wrap up things with the Romanian prevailing in a final set tie-breaker 3-6 6-1 (10-8) over the local favourite.

(Writing by Nick Mulvenney in Sydney and Sudipto Ganguly in Mumbai, editing by Peter Rutherford and Toby Davis)

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