WIMBLEDON, England (AP) — Novak Djokovic know that as things stand now, Wimbledon will be his last Grand Slam tournament of 2022, as he won’t be able to play in the US Open — he has not received any COVID-19 injections and cannot enter the United States as an unvaccinated foreigner.
“That,” said the 35-year-old from Serbia at the All England Club on Saturday, “is an extra motivation to do well here.”
Djokovic started this season alongside Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer at 20 major championships, then the record for a man. But Djokovic’s decision not to get vaccinated led to his deportation from Australia from the Australian Open in January — and Nadal won that tournament to make it to his 21st.
Nadal then defeated Djokovic in the quarter-finals at the French Open to earn his 22nd Slam title this month.
When Wimbledon starts on Monday, Djokovic will have the honor of opening the game at Center Court as defending champions. He is ranked No. 1 and will bid for a fourth consecutive All England Club title and seventh overall.
“Hopefully I can have a very good tournament, as I have done in the last three editions. Then I’ll just have to wait. I would like to go to the United States. But as of today, that is not possible,” said Djokovic, who has been affected twice with COVID-19. “I can’t do much more. I mean, it’s really up to the US government to decide whether or not to let unvaccinated people into the country.”
A reporter noted that Djokovic still has time to get vaccinated before the game kicks off in Flushing Meadows on August 29, then asked him if “you’ve completely closed your mind to that as an option.”
Djokovic replied in one word: “Yes.”
Iga Swiatek is number 1 in the WTA rankings, number 1 at Wimbledon, comes from a French Open championship and riding a 35-match winning streak en route to her opening game Tuesday at Center Court.
She also won the junior title at the All England Club in 2018.
And yet, Swiatek is pretty clear in the knowledge that her Grand Slam grassroots career record is only 3-2.
“Honestly, I still feel like I have to pick grass. Last year was definitely one of those tournaments where I didn’t know what to expect. Match by match I realized I might be able to do more and more,” said Swiatek, a 21-year-old from Poland whose Wimbledon debut in 2019 finished in the first round before reaching the fourth round in 2021.
“I’m just trying to stay open-minded and take positives out of the situation and realize that I can play without expectations,” she said. “I’ve had so many … successes this season that I don’t have to show everyone that I have to play well in every tournament because it’s tennis. We have ups and downs. So I’m trying to play with no expectations and just see what this tournament brings me.”
nadal said: after winning the French Open thanks to painkilling injections to numb the chronic pain in his left foot, he wasn’t sure if he could show up at Wimbledon.
Well, here he is, halfway through a calendar year’s Grand Slam for the first time ever, and he said on Saturday that a few new treatments he went through after he left Roland Garros helped calm the nerve flare-up – even if he pointed it out that she “didn’t fix the injury”.
“First of all, I can walk normally most days, almost every day. That’s the main problem for me,” said Nadal. “When I wake up, I don’t have the pain I had for the past year and a half. So I’m pretty happy about that.”
He said he’s been able to practice better in the past two weeks without going through “these horrible days when I can’t move at all.”
The two-time Wimbledon champion, whose first game is Tuesday, warned: “I can’t be super happy because I don’t know what could happen.”
CHANGES FOR 2022
Changes for this year’s tournament include a shift to first-to-ten points, win-by-two tiebreakers at 6-all in women’s third set and men’s fifth set; the first time to play on the middle Sunday, which is traditionally a day off; a return to full capacity at all courts and the return of the queue for people wanting to camp out to try and get tickets, two years after the coronavirus pandemic led to the complete cancellation of Wimbledon, and a year after the All England Club reduced audience size and temporarily eliminated the queue.
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