At Wimbledon on Monday, amid a rain delay, Novak Djokovic pleased the Centre Court audience by bending down with a towel in hand and blotting some wet off the grass. It felt natural for someone who has been treating his opponents in a similar manner over the course of the last five years at this event.
Since 2017, Djokovic has gone undefeated at Wimbledon, and on Monday, he defeated Pedro Cachin of Argentina to improve his overall record to 29-0 over the previous five Wimbledon competitions. He has won the previous four men’s singles championships, and another victory this year would put him in position to surpass even more legendary players.
In addition to increasing his prospects of completing the first men’s Grand Slam (all four majors in the same year) since Rod Laver achieved it in 1969, Djokovic would have won the first three major championships of 2023 if he wins a fifth straight victory at the All England Club. Along with Laver (1962 and 1969) and Don Budge (1938), he would also become only the third man to do it. Maureen Connolly in 1953, Margaret Court in 1970, and Steffi Graf in 1988 are the three women who have succeeded in the feat.
Aside from tying Roger Federer for the most Wimbledon men’s singles championships (eight), Djokovic would also tie Bjorn Borg for the most consecutive victories (five). In the end, he would equal Court’s record of 24 major victories and become the first player to accomplish it exclusively during the Open era.
The No. 2 seed and clear favourite to win the tournament on Monday, Novak Djokovic, entered Centre Court taking in an experience that very few people have ever had.
Walking out on Wimbledon’s Centre Court as the defending champion on the new grass is “a feeling like no other tournament in the world,” he remarked. “It’s amazing, amazing to be back in a dream tournament, and to be able to get the first match out of the way.”
When Djokovic was growing up in Serbia, Wimbledon was the first tennis event he ever saw on television. Ever since then, it has retained a certain appeal for him. And although that’s true for a lot of players, few have taken advantage of it as much as Djokovic, who instantly eats grass after winning his championships (unlike when he triumphs on the red clay of Roland Garros).
Even today, when Wimbledon’s surface is more quicker and more springy than it formerly was, there are still a lot of tactical differences that set grass apart from clay and hardcourts.
The grass at Wimbledon does not provide the same type of horizontal mobility for Djokovic, who prefers to glide through hardcourts and clay as he grabs for balls out wide and at the net. However, Djokovic has mastered the art of quickly transitioning from clay to grass.
He remarked, “I had to learn how to move, how to play, how to read the bounces, etc.
Djokovic defeated Cachin 6-3, 6-3, 7-6 (4) on Monday, although the grass was really too slick for a time after a small rain fell at the conclusion of the first set. It was the day’s most difficult challenge for Djokovic.
The game was called off, and the roof was rolled up and over the court. Usually, it takes less than 30 minutes for the courts to dry out. On Monday, though, the dampness for some reason remained, and players and tournament officials returned to a still-slippery surface.
The whole wait time was close to 90 minutes, an unexpectedly long amount of time for a court with a roof. But by using his towel and making jokes with the disgruntled onlookers as if he could clean everything up on his own, Djokovic won over the unhappy crowd. Some may have anticipated him to achieve it given his record on that particular piece of turf (he hasn’t dropped a set there since 2013).
Some questioned if Djokovic’s good nature was a sign that he was now in a more carefree and joyful mindset after successfully defending his men’s singles record-tying 23rd major championship.
Simply because I’ve won my 23rd Slam, I wouldn’t say it’s a particularly special experience for me, he remarked. “In some situations, when you probably can’t have any control, I’ve always tried to have fun. Both in Paris and New York, where I had some amusing weather delays, I made jokes.
After winning the French Open in June, he admitted to being mentally and physically worn out. In order to walk and unwind, he and his wife Jelena travelled to Portugal’s Azores Islands. The fog that prevented their initial flight home even required them to stay an additional day there.
He stated, “Obviously reaching the climax in Paris, and I needed to get away, get isolated a little bit. It was great because I’ve been through a lot of different emotions during the clay season.”
Nick Kyrgios, Djokovic’s opponent in last year’s Wimbledon final, will not be a competitor for him this year. On the eve of the first day, Kyrgios withdrew from the competition after a scan showed a damaged ligament in his wrist. Kyrgios had been rehabilitating from surgery on his left knee that was performed in January.
Kyrgios stated on Sunday, shortly before disclosing his wrist ailment, “I think people simply forget how difficult this sport is, how physical. “I dare someone to go out there and play with Novak for four hours and see how you feel afterward.”
They have all been eliminated since the start of Djokovic’s current run in 2018.