Sunday July 10, 2021. A rather quiet winner of Matteo Berrettini in the Wimbledon final, Novak Djokovic is flying over the tennis planet more than ever. From Melbourne to London via Paris, from hard to grass via dirt, the Serbian champion walks on water. For the first time in fifty-two years, a player has just won the first three major tricks on the calendar. In front of him, a possible Grand Slam. With the prospect of the Tokyo Olympics, there is even talk of a “Golden Slam” à la Steffi Graf in 1988.
A year later, what remains of all this? Nothing, or almost. Djokovic saw Olympic gold fly away. Then the Grand Slam, a “small” match from the legend, when he lost in the final of the US Open against Daniil Medvedev. He then had to give up on the Australian Open, his favorite tournament, for lack of vaccination, at the cost of a tragicomedy with the local authorities. Finally, when we thought he was revived for good, his defeat in the quarter-finals of Roland-Garros against Rafael Nadal extended his black series. Of all he owned twelve months less two weeks ago, only his British crown remains, the one he will defend from Monday.
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The wheel turns decidedly very quickly and, even if the circumstances are very different, this fall is reminiscent of that which the “Djoker” had known after Roland-Garros 2016. There too, he sat enthroned, alone, higher than ever after having achieved both the Grand Slam in career and, even more exceptionally, the Grand Slam straddling two years. A player simultaneously held the four most prestigious titles in tennis for the first time since Rod Laver in 1969. He then won nothing for two years.
The good news, if there is any left, is that Novak Djokovic is at home at Wimbledon. Almost as much as in Melbourne. If the venerable London tournament remains almost instinctively associated with Roger Federer, record holder of victories at the All England Club, it is largely for his six titles in the 2000s. Since then, if the Swiss has won there twice more , “Nole” has become the real master of the place. Six times winner, winner of five of the last seven editions, he is also a triple title holder and can therefore sign a pass of four reserved so far for the Borg-Sampras-Federer trio.
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Despite his recent setbacks, he is therefore the undisputed favorite of Wimbledon, especially since the draw has been rather lenient with him. In addition to Rafael Nadal, automatically transferred to the other end of the table, the number one seed is guaranteed to avoid Matteo Berrettini and a few other obstacles until the final.
So, of course, he arrives without the slightest mark since he has not played a single official match since his quarter-final loss at Roland-Garros, but this is not a source of concern for him. “It’s a balance to find between playing and restingexplained the Serb on Saturday. Over the years I realized that I didn’t need to play much on grass before Wimbledon. After clay, I prefer to slow down.” Last year, he was content to play doubles on grass after Roland-Garros.
The doors of the US Open closed?
On the other hand, he has probably already approached Wimbledon in a more favorable frame of mind. Especially since beyond the events of the last few months, the rest could prove to be just as complicated in the short term. Novak Djokovic played his first Grand Slam of the year at Roland-Garros and he could very well play his last in London. The doors of the US Open have every “chance” to close in front of him, for the same reasons as those of the Australian Open had refused to open: his lack of vaccination against Covid-19.
“The Grand Slam record and his obligation to win against Nadal weighed on Djokovic”
The American authorities maintain indeed to this day the vaccination obligation to authorize the entry on the territory to any foreign national. “I would like to go to the United States, but for the moment it is not possiblehe conceded. There’s not much I can do. It really depends on the American government to accept or not to let an unvaccinated person enter the territory.“According to him, it is”an additional source of motivation for Wimbledon“For his part, he has no intention of changing his approach. To the question”Do you remain closed to the idea of a vaccination“, he could not have been clearer on Saturday: “Yes.”
A year after having tumbled to London to rush towards the great history of tennis, Djokovic therefore arrives this year to save what can still be saved. Not much has been spared him in the last twelve months. Faced with the prospect of an annus horribilis, it is a sort of quits or double that the person who has lost a lot in a short time is about to negotiate.
By lifting the trophy on Center Court this Sunday, July 10, 2021, he joined Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal to become co-record holder of Grand Slam titles with 20 crowns. We then thought he was unstoppable. We thought he had gone to fly away. Since then, Nadal has taken off again. For Djokovic, it is the end of this unexpected standstill that is playing out in London.
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