Novak Djokovic has delighted tennis fans after announcing he will team up with Israeli veteran Jonathan Erlich to play doubles at next week’s Tel Aviv Open.
The 45-year-old Elrich will play his final ATP event in front of his home fans after a long career in which he has captained his Davis Cup side and made it to World No.5 in doubles.
Djokovic confirmed this week that he will play doubles alongside the Israeli at the ATP 250 event, reviving their pairing after lifting the trophy at Queen’s Club in 2010.
Djokovic’s lone doubles title came alongside Elrich 12 years ago, prompting the 21-time grand slam champion to team up with his former partner one final time.
“I know this is going to be your last tournament,” Djokovic said in a video message to Elrich.
“The best memory of my life in doubles was with you. You gave me the pleasure of winning the only doubles title of my life in Queen’s.
“You’ve always been very friendly towards me and towards my team. Everybody loves you and everybody will miss you on the tour.
“I look forward to seeing you in Tel Aviv in your ‘last dance’.”
Djokovic hasn’t played since winning the Wimbledon title in July, beating Nick Kyrgios in the final.
He was barred from entering the United States and Canada for the hard-court swing – including the US Open – due to his vaccination status.
He will join forces with Roger Federer, Rafa Nadal, and Andy Murray on Team Europe at the Laver Cup this week, before heading to Tel Aviv for his first official ATP event in two months on September 26.
Novak Djokovic sparks controversy with Tel Aviv move
However, his participation in Israel has sparked some controversy.
The event in Tel Aviv hasn’t been part of the ATP calendar since 1996, but was brought back this year after the cancellation of the Chinese swing.
Tel Aviv had an ATP event between 1978 and1981, and from 1983 to 1996, and will make its return this year after a 26-year hiatus.
Former US Open champion Dominic Thiem has also been announced as a participant, as have top stars Diego Schwartzman and Marin Cilic.
But Djokovic’s decision to play in Tel Aviv has sparked backlash from fans due to Israel’s ongoing conflict with Palestine.
Many believe Djokovic’s participation is a bad look considering the political tensions in the country.
Djokovic has been limited in the events he can play due to his refusal to get the Covid-19 jab, and will be desperate for some much-needed rankings points.
As well as being barred from the US Open, he also missed ATP 1000 events in Montreal and Cincinnati in the lead-up to the hard-court grand slam.
Djokovic has fallen to World No.7 in the ATP rankings after missing a number of events throughout the year due to his vaccination status.
He also lost 2000 rankings points at Wimbledon despite winning the title due to the ATP tour’s decision to strip the grass-court grand slam of the ability to award points.
The men’s and women’s tours both decided to strip Wimbledon of rankings points after the All England Club banned players from Russia and Belarus over Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
Because he also won the title at Wimbledon in 2021, Djokovic was unable to defend the 2000 points he earned 12 months ago and has plummeted in the rankings.