Novak Djokovic received a positive welcome back to Australia as he made a rare doubles appearance at the Adelaide International.
The Serb was deported prior to the 2022 Australian Open because of his Covid-19 vaccination status.
Djokovic’s three-year visa ban was overturned in November, allowing him to enter the country.
He and Canada’s Vasek Pospisil were beaten 4-6 6-3 10-5 by Tomislav Brkic and Gonzalo Escobar on his return.
The 21-time Grand Slam champion enjoyed overwhelming support from the crowd throughout the match, greeted by cheers and chants of “Novak, Novak” as he made his way on to court.
The 35-year-old, currently ranked world number five, stayed behind after the defeat to sign autographs and take photographs with fans.
He is top seed in the singles in Adelaide and will face Frenchman Constant Lestienne in the first round on Tuesday as he continues his build-up to the Australian Open, the first major of the season, which starts on 16 January.
Djokovic is a nine-time champion in Melbourne and is just one Grand Slam title shy of Rafael Nadal’s men’s record of 22.
Elsewhere in the Adelaide men’s singles on Monday, British number three Jack Draper beat South Korea’s Kwon Soon-woo 6-2 6-1 to progress to the second round.
Australian qualifier Alexei Popyrin stunned Canada’s second seed and world number six Felix Auger-Aliassime 6-4 7-6 (7-5) while world number 11 Holger Rune, of Denmark, also suffered an early exit at the hands of Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka, who won 2-6 6-4 6-4.