London: Novak Djokovic says he is no longer feeling the effects of January’s drawn-out visa saga – culminating in his deportation before the Australian Open – and the Wimbledon top seed is focusing all his energy into winning the grasscourt major for a seventh time.
Aware that the Wimbledon championships are shaping as the former world No.1’s only grand slam event for 11 months, Djokovic said the turbulence of 2022, highlighted by missed events in Australia and the United States, was moving to the background.
Serbia’s Novak Djokovic returns to Korea’s Kwon Soonwoo.Credit:AP
Firm in his stance to not get vaccinated against COVID-19, the 20-times major champion is expected to miss the US Open in New York due to entry requirements for the US.
In London, the 35-year-old had some shaky moments in the first round against South Korean Soonwoo Kwon, but was victorious 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.
Asked about the reception from the Wimbledon centre court crowd, Djokovic was rapt.
“I was very pleasantly surprised, I mean, in a positive way. I felt support,” Djokovic said.
“Of course, the crowd was engaged in the match. They supported both players. I thought they were very fair to me.”
The Serbian is drawing on the extra motivation of chasing more success at Wimbledon – an event he first won in 2011 – knowing that, on current projections, next year’s French Open could be the next major he plays.
“I’ve experienced something that I’ve never experienced in my life in Australia,” said Djokovic.
“So this post-Australian period of next several months was challenging emotionally for me because of a lot of different factors.”
Novak Djokovic of Serbia plays a forehand against Soonwoo Kwon of South Korea.Credit:Getty
Djokovic began his season in Dubai in February, followed by European events and last month’s French Open where he was beaten by eventual champion Rafael Nadal in the quarter-finals.
He said the “traces” of the first half of 2022 were gone.
“In terms of my motivation on the court, fulfilling my everyday chores, trying to win more titles and be one of the contenders for more grand slams, it hasn’t changed much, to be honest,” he said.
“I try to keep it together with the team in such way where we stick to the routines that we know that work for us.
“The sensation coming back on the court with everything that happened post-Australia, particularly first few tournaments, was different.
“It was a different feel. Not very pleasant to me. Right now I don’t feel the traces of that, so to say, any more. I move on. I play tournament by tournament.
“I try to make the most out of experience.”
Wimbledon’s rankings-free status and having a swag of players from Russia and Belarus absent due to the ban imposed by the All England Club has changed the complexion of the grass-court event.
Wimbledon took its hard-line stance against players such as world No.1 Daniil Medvedev over fears that any success by Russian stars could be used as propaganda Vladimir Putin following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
In reaction, the powerful ATP and WTA player bodies removed rankings points from Wimbledon, effectively making it an exhibition event, albeit with lucrative prize money on offer.
On Monday, however, instead of shaping up for a first round Wimbledon match, Medvedev was busy in another green environment, swapping his racquet for the golf clubs.
Tunisian in new lofty status of world No.2
New world No.2 and Serena Williams’ latest doubles partner Ons Jabeur admits she thinks an elevation to the top billing in women’s tennis is possible, even though there is daylight and more between Iga Swiatek and the rest of the field.
The Tunisian, winner of two titles in 2022, jumped up to the number two spot on the freshly released rankings on day one at Wimbledon.
LONDON, ENGLAND – JUNE 27: Ons Jabeur of Tunisia plays a backhand against Mirjam Bjoerklund of Sweden.Credit:Getty
Jabeur, 27, is starting to feel that her record justifies her lofty spot.
“I’ve worked hard a lot. Struggling a bit before with the confidence. Tennis is a tricky sport. You can lose every week, which is not fun,” she said after a first round win over Sweden’s Mirjam Bjorklund.
“Like I said before in the beginning of the season, I was like No. 10 and nine, I said, I belong in this ranking and I don’t feel I deserve the spot to be maybe five or four.
“Now I feel like I deserve it even more. I feel like I even gained and won matches to prove myself on this level.
“I do feel more confident. I do feel like I deserve to be in this level. Hopefully next step will be No. 1.”
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Watch all the action from Wimbledon ad-free, live and on demand on Stan Sport, with matches streaming in 4K UHD from June 27. Coverage of select matches commences on 9GEM from 7.30pm (AEST) each night.
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