WIMBLEDON, England — Fresh off a seventh Wimbledon championship, which won him his 21st Grand Slam title — one ahead of Roger Federer, one behind Rafael Nadal — Novak Djokovic has gone on vacation. What is unclear is the exact length of the break he will take.
And when he can resume his quest for major trophies, he rightly thinks the fans and history value the most.
The next Slam tournament is the US Open, and for now Djokovic can’t participate as he is not vaccinated against COVID-19.
“I would really love to,” he said, “I would love to go.”
As an unvaccinated alien, however, he cannot enter the United States. He attempted to circumvent coronavirus-related rules at the Australian Open in January via a tournament-backed exemption, ended up in court and in custody, and eventually had his visa revoked and deported from this country – which could hamper efforts to return there in 2023.
So it’s really hard to know what’s next for Djokovic. It’s definitely an unusual kind of limbo.
It’s all up to him, of course, and he firmly insisted – and insisted again on Sunday after beating Nick Kyrgios 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 7-6(3) at the All England Club – “I don’t don’t plan on getting vaccinated.”
There is no doubt that he has already accomplished more than enough to re-gild his CV, his reputation and his place in the tennis hall of fame. That’s why, for example, the 35-year-old Serb isn’t too worried about not being No. 1 anymore (he already broke Federer’s record for most weeks at the top of the ATP) or slipping to the No.7 in Monday’s standings despite a fourth straight triumph at the All England Club.
These are unusual times to say the least, and as of this week Djokovic loses the 2000 points he accrued for winning the 2021 title at Wimbledon, while simultaneously earning zero points for winning the 2022 title, a result of the WTA and ATP tours. withhold all ranking points in response to the banning of athletes from Russia and Belarus due to the war in Ukraine.
So is No. 1-ranked Daniil Medvedev, the Russian who beat Djokovic in the US Open final last year to end his bid for the first calendar-year Grand Slam by a man since 1969. , was not allowed to be at the All England Club. And now it looks like Djokovic won’t be allowed to be at Flushing Meadows, where play starts on August 29.
Federer, who hasn’t played in a year and dropped out of the standings entirely on Monday, will not be at the US Open. Nadal’s status is uncertain after withdrawing from Wimbledon with an abdominal tear.
The saga in Melbourne six months ago took its toll on Djokovic. He said it. Just like his trainer, Goran Ivanisevic.
“It was a huge thing, what happened to him,” Ivanisevic said. “We all expected (to hear) from him after a few weeks: ‘OK, forget about Australia. Let’s go back and practice.
That’s not how it happened. Instead, Ivanisevic recalled: “It took a long time.”
Djokovic said the whole episode “definitely affected me in the first few months of the year. I didn’t feel very good, in general. I mean, mentally, emotionally, I was not in the right place.
Did Ivanisevic, who won Wimbledon in 2001, worry about the lingering effects on Djokovic’s ability to perform at his best, to win the biggest events?
“No. People like him, you don’t doubt that,” Ivanisevic said. “He’s a great champion.”
After finally putting Australia behind him, Djokovic also had to put aside a French Open quarter-final loss to Nadal. If Djokovic’s play hasn’t been perfect throughout Wimbledon, his grit has been, with comeback wins in each of his last three matches.
“He’s so composed,” Kyrgios said. “You can’t shake it.”
Djokovic is the second oldest man to win a singles championship at Wimbledon in the professional era, which dates back to 1968. He now has nine major titles since he turned 30, one more than Nadal for the most in that span.
After a career spent chasing Federer in the Slam standings, Djokovic has now passed him.
He would also like to overtake Nadal, which could take longer if Djokovic doesn’t make himself eligible for every major event.
Not that he looks at all like someone thinking of retiring.
“I don’t feel any rush, really anywhere, to end my career in a year or two or anything. Just, I don’t think about it,” Djokovic said. “I want to keep my body healthy because obviously that’s necessary to keep going at this level.”