Djokovic’s Outlook Positive As He Chases Another Wimbledon Title

Novak Djokovic (photo: Jürgen Hasenkopf)

WIMBLEDON/WASHINGTON, June 30, 2024 (by Michael Dickens)

As seven-time Wimbledon champion Novak Djokovic sat down to his pre-tournament news conference Saturday afternoon, the No. 1 topic on everyone’s mind and agenda was the condition of the iconic Serbian’s right knee. After all, less than a month ago, Djokovic suffered a tear of his medial meniscus in the fourth round at Roland-Garros.

When Djokovic opted for surgery on June 5 to repair the tear, he was all but counted out for this year’s Wimbledon Championships. After all, recovery generally takes three to six weeks. But here is Djokovic at the All England Club ready to go. The 37-year-old has responded well after playing practice sets the past week with a variety of players including World No. 1 Jannik Sinner, Daniil Medvedev, Holger Rune and Frances Tiafoe.

“It’s been a week of training,” he said. “Very good week of training. I had, particularly the last three days, very intense tennis sessions. I had points, practice sets played with Sinner, with Frances Tiafoe, with Medvedev yesterday, and Emil Ruusuvuori, actually double session, and then today with Rune, as well.

“Really top players that are playing great tennis on grass. High intensity. Lots of situations on the court where the knee is tested to almost the maximum. Change of directions, so forth.”

Djokovic added: “The knee has responded very well to all of that so far, which of course is a great sign for my participation in Wimbledon. That’s why I decided to be in the draw.”

Seeded No. 2 and anchoring the bottom half of the draw with No. 4 Alexander Zverev, Djokovic begins his Wimbledon quest for his eighth title – which would tie Roger Federer for most men’s singles titles at SW19 – on Tuesday against 123rd-ranked Vit Kopriva of the Czech Republic.

“I still have couple days’ time. I play on Tuesday,” he said. “I’m confident about the health of my knee, and just general physical state is good. Obviously, once the tournament starts, I’ll have more, I guess, sensations and more feedback from how the knee reacts to a best-of-five Grand Slam match. So far everything that was done was very positive.”

While it would have been easy enough for Djokovic to skip Wimbledon – and even the upcoming Paris Olympic Games – and gear up to defend his US Open title at the end of summer, he said he wanted to play now.

“I do have something that is described as a feeling of not missing out at a Grand Slam while I can still play and while I’m still active and at this level,” he said, explaining his decision-making process.

“I wouldn’t call it a fear of missing out. I would just say it’s this incredible desire to play, just to compete. Particularly because it is Wimbledon, the tournament that always has been a dream tournament for me when I was a kid. I always dreamed of playing Wimbledon. Just the thought of me missing Wimbledon was just not correct. I didn’t want to deal with that.

“It’s probably less of a rational and logical explanation, but more of that inner feeling and sensation of really great desire to play Wimbledon.”

Wimbledon grass remains a puzzle for Swiatek to solve

Seven different women have won the last seven Wimbledon Ladies’ singles titles. Yet, none of the seven include World No. 1 Iga Swiatek. It’s something not lost on the young and talented 23-year-old Polish star. Last year, in bowing to Elina Svitolina in the quarterfinals, it was her best showing at SW 19.

This year, she comes in as the top seed after having won her fourth career French Open title and fifth major overall. She’s won 19 consecutive matches and captured titles in each of the last three tournaments she’s competed in: Madrid, Rome and Roland-Garros. Earlier this season, she also lifted trophies at Doha and Indian Wells.

On Tuesday, Swiatek will play her first-round match at this year’s Championships against Sofia Kenin of the United States. Her potential route to a first Wimbledon title could include a fourth-round tussle with No. 13 seed Jelena Ostapenko, whom she is 0-4 lifetime against; a quarterfinal matchup against defending champion and this year’s sixth seed Marketa Vondrousova; a semifinal versus 2022 Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina, and a final against No. 2 seed and reigning US Open titlist Coco Gauff.

“Thanks for letting me know,” Swiatek said, breaking into a smile, during her pre-tournament news conference on Saturday. “But I’m not looking at the draw. I only know my first-round opponent and that’s all.”

Swiatek added: “It’s a really tricky tournament. It’s not like you can build up your shape and then peak at Wimbledon. There aren’t so many tournaments on grass. It comes down more to the mental side, how you’re able to adjust to this surface. The player that does it better is going to win.”

While Swiatek won’t be thought of as an underdog — having already compiled a win-loss record of 45-4 in 2024 — she’s still the player to beat in order to win the Venus Rosewater Dish, the trophy awarded to the Wimbledon women’s champion. Grass, unlike clay or hard courts, is still a surface she’s still trying to master.

“The most challenging aspect of being a tennis pro is adjusting surface. Knowing that you probably played the best tennis of your life on one surface, but then you’re going to another,” Swiatek said of making the transition from clay to grass.

“Accepting that, working through it and not focus on the negatives. … Just getting the feeling of the surface and making the small adjustments that are going to be enough, I think.

“But we’ll see.”

Sinner hasn’t won a Wimbledon title but he’s the one to beat

Reigning Wimbledon champion Carlos Alcaraz has said of current men’s World No. 1 Jannik Sinner that he is the best player in the world at the moment – bar none. While it’s a pretty bold statement coming from one of Sinner’s biggest rivals, there’s merit to it as the start of the 2024 Wimbledon Championships have arrived.

As the quiet but polite, 22-year-old Italian from the South Tyrol readies to play his opening-round match against 95th-ranked Yannick Hanfmann of Germany on Monday, he comes into this year’s Championships having won his first Grand Slam title at the Australian Open. Plus, he’s garnered three other titles in 2024: at Rotterdam and Miami and, in preparing for Wimbledon, Sinner lifted the trophy in Halle. It was his first title on grass and he’s already won 14 crowns overall.

Sinner has strung together a remarkable 38-4 win-loss record this season. He will walk out on No. 1 Court carrying a five-match winning streak, and filled with the look and feel of confidence.

“Thinking about seeding or all the rest, it doesn’t make any sense; everyone wants to win and show their best here,” Sinner said during his pre-tournament news conference on Saturday.

“I feel like, especially on grass when you have a good confidence with also yourself, it can help you. Last week for me was an important week. Last year I played semis here, so in my mind I know that I can play also some good tennis on this surface. Obviously, every year is a bit different. In Halle, the conditions are different than here. I’m just trying to get used to it, building my confidence here on this court. That’s it.”

Sinner’s path to winning the Wimbledon title could include meeting the No. 3 seed Alcaraz in the semifinals – they’re in the same upper half of the draw – and No. 2 seed Novak Djokovic in the title match. He said he feels in good shape and condition.

“I feel physically much better than in the beginning of Roland-Garros because there I arrived with some doubts,” he said.Here I have no doubts about my body. We have been working a lot in the last days. I’m not concerned about my body. I’m just happy to be here and hopefully ready to compete.”

After all, everyone – including Sinner – wants to win and play their best.

Monday’s Wimbledon Championships order of play 

By the numbers

Wimbledon is the oldest tennis championship in the world. The Wimbledon Championships have taken place at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club since 1877 and have been at the current ground on Church Road since the 1922 tournament.

“Quotable …”

“It’s been obviously a tough 10 days or so since Queen’s. Obviously had the operation on the back, which wasn’t insignificant. Just been trying to do everything that I can to try and get ready to start the tournament here. I don’t know if that’s going to be enough. I’ve been practising for the past few days. I played a set today. It went pretty well, but I still don’t have 100 per cent sort of feeling and sensation in my leg yet.

“It’s getting better every single day. Like I said a few days ago, I want to give it every single chance that I can to get there.”

— Two-time Wimbledon champion Andy Murray of Great Britain, during his Sunday afternoon pre-tournament news conference, on his physical condition.

“I’m very happy to be back here … I’ve missed this tournament so much. This year, coming back and practicing, it reminded me a lot more, I would say.

“I just feel very grateful to have the opportunity and the wild card to be able to compete here. I obviously have amazing memories from 2021. Yeah, it’s an amazing place to be.”

Emma Raducanu of Great Britain, ranked 135th, who will play No. 22 seed Ekaterina Alexandrova of Russia on Centre Court Monday afternoon.