World number one Carlos Alcaraz says he is a “lucky guy” to have a top player like Novak Djokovic on tour and is looking forward to the Serb’s return to the Australian Open next month.

Djokovic missed two of the four Grand Slams in 2022 – in Melbourne and New York – because he was not vaccinated against Covid-19 but will be allowed to enter Australia for the 2023 edition.

Alcaraz, 19, took full advantage of 35-year-old Djokovic’s absence at the US Open as he stormed to a maiden Grand Slam triumph and became the youngest-ever ATP No.1 in the process.

The Spaniard assures he is happy, though, that Djokovic will be able to compete at Melbourne Park, relishing the prospect of potentially facing off with the 21-time major champion, who has won the Australian Open a record nine times.

“Tennis is better having the best players in the world, and for the fans as well it’s good to see a tournament with the best players,” Alcaraz told reporters in Abu Dhabi, where he is set to take part in the Mubadala World Tennis Championship exhibition event.

“Talking for me, I want to see Novak play in every tournament. I always said that if you want to be the best, you have to beat the best player in the world. I’m a lucky guy to have Djokovic on the tour.”

Alcaraz revealed he has “almost 100 percent” recovered from an abdominal injury that forced him to retire from his Paris Masters quarter-final against Holger Rune last month and ruled him out of his last two events of the 2022 season – the ATP Finals and Davis Cup Finals.

“I feel good finally. I had a month to recover well the ab and right now I feel almost 100 percent. I have been training normally this past week and I’m feeling great,” said the Murcia native.

Hunted man

Alcaraz will contest two matches in Abu Dhabi on Saturday and Sunday and is not scheduled to play any official tournaments ahead of the Australian Open, which kicks off on January 16.

The Spanish teenager acknowledges he will be the hunted man on tour next season and told Arab News in a recent interview that he is ready to lose his No.1 ranking, but will fight hard to get it back.

“Of course having a target on my back from everyone is going to be a little bit different for me this year and I have to be prepared for that,” Alcaraz said on Friday.

“I’m going to try to finish 2023 at the same position as right now. It’s going to be a long year but of course I’m going to enjoy.”

Alcaraz won his only meeting with Djokovic in the semi-final of the Madrid Masters this year, having also dispatched Rafael Nadal on the way to becoming the youngest winner of the title.

The Spaniard won five of his six ATP Tour singles titles in 2022, including the US Open and two Masters 1000s.

Alcaraz is expecting this upcoming campaign to be his toughest yet, adding it will be “very open” with many players capable of contending at the big events.

It is a sentiment also shared by world number four Stefanos Tsitsipas, who said in Abu Dhabi the return of Djokovic in Australia will force everyone to up their game.

“The competition is going to be higher. Mr. Djokovic will be starting the season straight from the Australian Open, so there are not going to be any shortcuts anymore,” said the Greek.