Djokovic wants to ‘go for the title’ at Wimbledon

Djokovic wants to ‘go for the title’ at Wimbledon
FEELING GOOD. Novak Djokovic of Serbia plays a return during a training session on Court 2 at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in Wimbledon, London, on June 28, 2024. / AP

NOVAK Djokovic’s right knee has responded so well after surgery to repair a torn meniscus less than a month ago that he said Saturday he considers himself ready to contend at Wimbledon, where he has won seven of his 24 Grand Slam trophies.

And, no, he will not adjust how he plays to protect the knee.

“I don’t see myself holding back. I don’t see myself calculating or being a bit more cautious in the movement. I don’t see that happening,” Djokovic said at a pre-tournament news conference Saturday. “Really, I go all in. I go full out. I mean, that’s the way I’ve been playing my entire career.”

When a reporter asked Djokovic why he would risk getting back on court at all so soon after the surgery, the player said his wife posed the very same question.

Djokovic, who has yet to reach a final at any event in 2024, described what he called an “incredible desire to play, just to compete” and added that Wimbledon, in particular, has held a special place in his heart since he was a kid.

So, Djokovic continued, merely “the thought of me missing Wimbledon was just not correct; I didn’t want to deal with that.”

He explained that while he was “very much in doubt of making” it to the All England Club after getting hurt at the French Open on June 3, he is far more optimistic after a week of practices at the site of the grass-court major that begins Monday.

“All the days that I’ve spent here,” he said, “give me only positive signs and encourage me to really think — not just think, but feel — that I can do it.”

His first-round match against qualifier Vit Kopriva is scheduled for Tuesday.

“I didn’t come here to play a few rounds and prove to myself and others that I can actually compete in one or two matches. I really want to go for the title,” said Djokovic, who is seeded No. 2 behind Jannik Sinner and was the runner-up to Carlos Alcaraz a year ago at Wimbledon. “The last three days have given me enough optimism and good signs that I can actually be in a state to compete on the highest level for the next few weeks, hopefully.”

The 37-year-old from Serbia was hurt during a five-set victory over Francisco Cerundulo in the fourth round at Roland Garros, withdrew before he was supposed to play in the quarterfinals and underwent an operation in Paris on June 5.

After wearing a gray sleeve on his right leg while playing practice sets at the All England Club with players including Australian Open champion Sinner, 2021 U.S. Open winner Daniil Medvedev and Frances Tiafoe, Djokovic said there haven’t been any setbacks and he is “confident about the health of my knee.”

Djokovic said he had “extensive conversations” with other athletes who have recovered from similar knee procedures, among them tennis players Taylor Fritz and Stan Wawrinka, and retired Olympic champion ski racer Lindsey Vonn.

In 2021, Fritz injured his knee at the French Open and returned to competition at Wimbledon three weeks later.

Alcaraz said he considered Djokovic superhuman for being able to come back so quickly.

When that comment was relayed to Djokovic, he grinned.

“Well, not really. I think Taylor Fritz is a superhuman. He recovered in 21 days; I (had) a bit more (time),” Djokovic said.

“It’s not ideal, maybe, in the eyes of the doctors and specialists that would normally tell you it’s normally between three and six weeks. The closer to six weeks the better, probably, because you want to not risk too much and give your knee and your body time,” he said. “But it’s also individual. It’s very subjective. Everyone has a different response to the recovery, to the injury, to rehab, to exercises.” / AP


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