Novak Djokovic has spoken about the "extra motivation" he felt after he sealed an impressive Tel Aviv Open triumph in his ATP Tour return.
The 21-time Grand Slam singles champion claimed his third title of what has been a largely frustrating 2022 for him as he cruised past fellow veteran Marin Cilic, 6-3 6-4, in the final on Sunday.
Djokovic was forced to miss the US Open due to his decision not to get vaccinated from Covid-19 and was delighted to get back to winning ways on the ATP Tour with a fine victory and what he described as a "really amazing experience" at the event.
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The 35-year-old, who had been at Roger Federer's send-off at the Laver Cup in London, did not drop a single set as he won the 89th tour-level title of his illustrious career, and he was left to reflect on a special week in Israel.
“My approach is to win tournaments wherever I am and I’m glad that I have a team of people around me that makes sure that I am in the best shape in order to be a contender to win titles,” Djokovic said.
“That’s why I came to Israel, to try to win the title. First time playing here [since a] Davis Cup tie more than 15 years ago, so it was a really amazing experience.
“I played some very good tennis, I think. I [didn’t] drop a set the entire week. I hadn’t played a tournament in three months, so it was really extra motivation for me to really do well, particularly because people have been so friendly and so supportive of me throughout the week.
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"I’m taking some great confidence into next week as well. Just everything really that we experienced this week was positive.
"The way people treated us when we landed in Israel all the way to the last moments now of our stay here has been truly wonderful and I am very grateful because it was more than a tournament for me.
"It was great connections that we established with people, all of us in the team, that we will cherish and will give us positive emotions for what’s coming up."
As for Cilic, the second seed and eventual runner-up was as positive and gracious in defeat as ever.
“It was a fantastic week for me celebrating my birthday," Cilic said. "I didn’t have a chance to celebrate with so [many people before], but next time I’m buying drinks, everybody!”
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