Novak Djokovic delighted the crowd on Center Court on Monday as he bent over a towel and wiped off the grass at a rain-postponed Wimbledon. For someone who has done something similar to his opponents in this tournament for the past five years, it seemed fitting.
Djokovic has not lost a match at Wimbledon since 2017 and improved his record at Wimbledon to 29-0 in his last five tournaments with a first-round victory over Pedro Cathin on Monday. He has won the men’s singles title four times in the past, and one more title this year would add more names to his record book.
If Djokovic can win his fifth consecutive All England Club title, he will clinch the first three major trophies of 2023 and become the first man since Rod Laver to win a men’s Grand Slam (all four majors in the same year). the possibility will increase. He is also the third man to achieve this feat, after Laver (1962 and 1969) and Don Budge in 1938. Three women have achieved this feat: Maureen Connolly in 1953, Margaret Court in 1970 and Steffi Graf in 1988. .
Djokovic will also tie Roger Federer for the most Wimbledon men’s singles titles (8) and Bjorn Borg for the most consecutive titles (5). Ultimately, he would tie the court’s record of 24 major titles, becoming the only player in the Open Era to complete it all. (By 1968, when professionals weren’t allowed to play in the majors, Court won 13 majors.)
On Monday, the No. 2 seed and overwhelming favorite Djokovic stepped onto Center Court and savored a moment only the happy few have experienced.
“Walking on fresh grass on Center Court at Wimbledon as the defending champion is a feeling you don’t get at any other tournament in the world,” he said. “It’s really great to be back in my dream tournament and finish the first match without a hitch.”
Wimbledon was the first tennis tournament Djokovic saw on TV when he was growing up in Serbia, and Wimbledon has been a fascination for him ever since. That’s true of thousands of players, but few enjoyed it more than Djokovic, who ingests a blade of grass as soon as he wins a title (unlike when he won on red clay at Roland Garros).
It’s especially difficult to win on grass, especially in a time when there are so few tournaments on the ground and the season is so short, that Djokovic almost never plays warm-up games anymore. Even though the Wimbledon surface is much more bouncy and faster than it once was, there are still many tactical aspects that distinguish grass from clay or hard courts.
For Djokovic, who likes skating on hardcourts and clays, reaching for wide and net balls, the grass at Wimbledon doesn’t allow for the same horizontal movement. But Djokovic is more adept than anyone at adapting from clay to grass in a short period of time.
“I had to learn how to move, how to walk, how to play, how to read the bounce,” he said.
But the turf was actually slippery for a while on Monday when light rain fell towards the end of Djokovic’s 6-3, 6-3, 7-6 (4) win over Kachin. It was Djokovic’s most difficult obstacle of the day.
The match was suspended, a tarp was spread over the court and the roof was swiveled shut. Usually the coat he dries within 30 minutes. But the dampness mysteriously persisted into Monday, with tournament officials and players still returning to the slippery courts.
In total, the delay lasted nearly 90 minutes, a surprising length for a covered court. But Djokovic, as if he could clean everything up himself, joked with a towel and was endeared by disappointed spectators. Given his success on that turf (he hasn’t lost on Center Court since 2013), some might have expected him to succeed.
Some wondered if Djokovic’s good temper meant he was in a more relaxed and cheerful mood after successfully clinching his 23rd major singles title.
“I wouldn’t say it’s a special feeling for me just because I won the tournament for the 23rd time,” he said. “I’ve always tried to have fun in certain situations where things seemed out of control. In Paris, in New York, I’m joking, there have been funny delays caused by rain.”
He admitted to being physically and mentally exhausted after winning the French Open in June. So he and his wife Elena went to the Azores in Portugal to hike and relax. They were forced to spend another day there when their original return flight was canceled due to fog.
“I’ve been through a lot of different emotions during the clay season, so it’s been great, especially in Paris where we were clearly at a climax, so I needed to get away from it and isolate myself a bit,” he said.
One player Djokovic doesn’t need to fight this year is Nick Kyrgios, his opponent in last year’s Wimbledon final. Kyrgios is recovering from left knee surgery in January, but tests revealed a torn ligament in his wrist, and he withdrew from the tournament the night before the opening day.
“I think people just forget how intense this sport is, how physical it is,” Kyrgios said Sunday before announcing his wrist injury. “Someone go out and play with Novak for four hours and see how it feels afterwards.”
All that has been wiped out since Djokovic’s current streak began in 2018.
#Novak #Djokovic #aims #clean #grass #Wimbledon