As mystery continues to swirl about Novak Djokovic’s immediate tennis future, the Serbian put an end to any debate with a blunt response.
Novak Djokovic repeated his hardline refusal to get a Covid-19 vaccination as he resigned himself to sitting out the season’s last Grand Slam at the US Open.
Djokovic was deported from Melbourne in January over his single-minded but controversial stance, forcing him to abandon an assault on a 10th Australian Open title.
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With no sign of US authorities relaxing their rule requiring all visitors to be vaccinated, the 35-year-old Djokovic admitted that Wimbledon, which starts on Monday, will be his last Slam of 2022.
When asked if he had completely closed his mind to getting vaccinated, he gave an unequivocal one-word answer.
“Yes,” he said.
Djokovic was US Open champion in 2011, 2015 and 2018. He has 20 Slams to his name, two fewer than fierce rival Rafael Nadal.
Last year, defeat in the New York final to Daniil Medvedev robbed the Serbian of the opportunity to become the first man since 1969 to clinch a calendar Grand Slam.
Djokovic’s inability to travel to the United States — he already missed the Indian Wells and Miami Masters — will serve as a key driver as he sets his sights on a seventh Wimbledon title.
“As of today I’m not allowed to enter the States under these circumstances. That is an extra motivation to do well here. Hopefully I can have a very good tournament,” said Djokovic.
“I would love to go to States. But as of today, that’s not possible. There is not much I can do anymore.
“It’s really up to the US government to make a decision whether or not they allow unvaccinated people to go into the country.”
Also adding fuel to the Djokovic fire is the chance to win a fourth successive Wimbledon title and join a select group.
In the Open era, only Bjorn Borg, Pete Sampras and Roger Federer have managed to complete such a streak of dominance at the All England Club.
“As a seven, eight-year-old boy I’ve dreamt of winning Wimbledon and becoming No. 1,” he added.
“Pete Sampras winning his first Wimbledon, was the first tennis match I ever saw on the TV.”
Meanwhile, Nadal said that for the first time in 18 months he has defeated the crippling foot pain which threatened to push him to the brink of retirement.
Nadal captured his 14th French Open and record-extending 22nd major earlier this month to put himself halfway to the first men’s calendar Grand Slam since 1969.
However, in the aftermath of his Paris victory, he revealed that he had needed to have his left foot anaesthetised to keep competing.
He then underwent “pulsed radiofrequency stimulation”, a treatment aimed at reducing nerve pain.
“I can walk normal most of the days, almost every single day. That’s for me the main issue,” the 36-year-old Spaniard said at Wimbledon’s media day.
“When I wake up, I don’t have this pain that I was having for the last year and a half, so quite happy about that.
“And second thing, practising. Since the last two weeks, I didn’t have one day of these terrible days that I can’t move at all. The feeling and overall feelings are positive.”
Nadal is a two-time champion at Wimbledon but his last title at the All England Club came 12 years ago.
This year he is seeded two which at least gives him the benefit of avoiding top seed Djokovic until the final.
The Spaniard hasn’t played a grass-court warm-up event, preferring instead to focus on alleviating his foot pain and then practising on the surface in Mallorca.
“In 2003 (his debut year), I never thought that I’d have a chance to win Wimbledon,” he said.
“Today it’s a different story. I had some success here.”