PublishedJune 26, 2022, 4:53 PM
In London, the Serb will try on Monday to save a nightmarish season.
Expelled from Australiabeaten in quarters at Roland Garrospresumably interdit d’US Open for lack of an anti-Covid vaccine and falling in the standings, Novak Djokovic only has Wimbledon to light up a nightmarish season.
Monday, the tradition will be respected: winner of the previous edition, the Serb will inaugurate the Center Court, facing the South Korean Soonwoo Kwon (75th in the world). As usual, its flexibility should enable it to avoid the pitfalls of slippery grass the first few days, then it should gain momentum.
On his way could stand Thanasi Kokkinakis (82nd), Reilly Opelka (24th) or Nikoloz Basilashvili (27th), Carlos Alcaraz (7th) or Andy Murray (51st), Hubert Hurkacz (10th) and finally Rafael Nadal (4th) or Matteo Berrettini (11th).
Winner of the last three editions, Djokovic is the big favorite of the tournament where he is aiming for a 7th title, his 21st Grand Slam to return to a length of Nadal. Only here, as he showed on clay, and in particular in the quarter-finals at Roland-Garros, the Djoker is psychologically fragile after months more complicated than expected. And whatever his result, at Wimbledon, he will drop in the ATP rankings since the tournament will not offer any points.
However, he ensures that he is above these contingencies. “Honestly, there are players who will definitely be affected more than me,” he said. I don’t mean that I don’t consider them important. But, for me, they are less so. Now that I have the record for the number of weeks spent in place of No 1 (373), I no longer search as much as before the classification, “he explained, still regretting not having been able to defend his 2000 points in Australia and his 2000 points at Wimbledon.
The aftermath of his misadventures in Melbourne where, for having refused the anti-Covid vaccine, he spent several days in a detention center before being expelled from Australia just before the start of the tournament, was felt several months later.
Deprived of Indian Wells and Miami, for these same health issues, he returned to clay in Europe but he was unrecognizable in Monte-Carlo (beaten on entry), lost in the final at home in Belgrade and in the semis. -final in Madrid (against the phenomenon Alcaraz), before winning Rome but being dominated by Nadal in the quarterfinals at Roland-Garros.
Since then, he has not played any preparation tournament on grass. But then again, he says, there shouldn’t be a problem. “There are players who like to play as many official matches as possible because they see it as the best way to train. There are others who don’t need to play as much and prefer to find the right balance between competition and rest. I belong to this second category”, he noted, stressing that he had “already won Wimbledon without playing a preparatory tournament”.
And if he needed an extra source of motivation in London, he would find it in his likely absence from the US Open at the end of August. Because he has clearly reaffirmed his refusal to comply with the anti-Covid vaccine, even if it means not being authorized to enter the territory of the United States. In this case, Wimbledon would be his second and last Major of the season, having missed the Grand Slam in 2021 by one match… the final lost in New York against Daniil Medvedev.
“Currently, I am not allowed to enter the United States given the circumstances. I know it. It’s extra motivation to play well here” at Wimbledon, he said two days before the start of the competition. “I hope to have a very good tournament, as I have done in the last three editions…”