Novak Djokovic, after his absence from  US open last year, is filled with anticipation as he returns back.

The 23-times Grand Slam champion was not allowed to compete in the U.S. last year and earlier this year over his refusal to take a COVID-19 vaccine

Novak Djokovic said he missed playing in the biggest tournaments in the United States and was thrilled to be back after easing to victory in his first singles match there in two years at the Cincinnati Open on Wednesday.

Playing singles in Cincinnati for the first time since 2019, the 36-year-old Serbian won the first set 6-4 against Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, who later retired with a back issue.

World number two Djokovic, who lost the Wimbledon final to Carlos Alcaraz last month, is looking to capture his third Grand Slam title of the season at the Aug. 28-Sept. 10 U.S. Open.

Having last competed on hardcourts in March as the runner-up in the 2021 New York event, he mentioned that it's too premature to assess his performance on the surface after a less polished initial match following his return.

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Some positives, some negatives. But at the end of the day, it’s expected. First match coming back,” said Djokovic, who will meet fellow veteran Gael Monfils next.

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Yeah, there is that element of defending champion, defending 1000 points in this case. It's a big obstacle, in a way. It's a big challenge,