Djokovic sparks retirement fears as he bids for Wimbledon glory
Novak Djokovic plays Nick Kyrgios in Sunday’s Wimbledon men’s final
Novak Djokovic will be chasing his 21st Grand Slam victory on Sunday when he takes on Aussie firebrand Nick Kyrgios in the Wimbledon men’s final – but the Serbian great admits that the pressure is on him to add more titles to his collection as his career in top-level tennis begins to wind down.
Djokovic can pull ahead of longtime rival Roger Federer in the all-time Grand Slam stakes if he can continue his fine form in the London sunshine this weekend, but he says that as each tournament comes and goes so too does his chances of setting an unassailable lead at the summit of the all-time Grand Slam list.
Spain’s Rafael Nadal currently leads the way with 22 – two more than the Serb, who could in theory draw level at the U.S. Open later this year, provided that he is permitted to play the event as an unvaccinated individual.
Djokovic was deported from Australia earlier this year in advance of the Australian Open after officials determined that he was in violation of the country’s Covid-19 rules.
“I don’t know how many grand slam opportunities to win the trophy I will still have, as I will have in a few days’ time,” Djokovic, 35, said of his showdown with Kyrgios.
“I’m aware of what’s on the line. I mean, every match, every Grand Slam that I get to play at this stage of my career, there is a lot on the line. So, of course, I’m approaching it with positive attitude and self-belief and willingness to win. There’s no doubt about it.
“How do you balance that? Well, it’s really subjective. Every player is different. I can’t, and I don’t want to speak about all the details and routines that I have that make me feel well-balanced and prepared. But there are things that I do in order to make myself mentally, emotionally, and physically well-prepared.
Djokovic will be the clear favorite to claim another Grand Slam win at Wimbledon’s Center Court on Sunday but in Kyrgios, he faces an opponent who seamlessly blends the sublime with the surreal on the court.
The Serb is a veteran, though, and hinted that he knows what to expect from Kyrgios and that he won’t fall victim to the Australian’s mind-games which have affected even the likes of Stefanos Tsitsipas in earlier rounds.
“On the court a lot of things can happen,” he said. “There’s so much going on, pressure and expectations. Sometimes you’re able to handle it better than your opponent; sometimes not.
“Every player that goes out on the court needs to adjust and adapt and accept circumstances and find solutions in order to win a tennis match” he said.
“For me, arguably it’s on a different level because I have to deal with different things that are also off the court, the crowd being maybe on the side of my opponents most of the times.
“This is something that throughout my career I’ve been used to. The more you experience these kind of situations, not the better you feel, but just more prepared you feel. You know what to expect. It’s always really about handling your own nerves better than maybe your opponent is his own. This internal battle is always the greatest.”
With that said, Djokovic appears confident that he can withstand whatever it is that Kyrgios hurls at him this weekend – but if he is to win what would be his seventh Wimbledon title, it likely won’t come without passing a test that all of Kyrgios’ opponents have failed miserably thus far.
And he won’t have many more opportunities, either.