“50-50” on Tokyo, Novak Djokovic is considering skipping out on Olympic Games and Golden Slam quest
After tying Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal on the all-time men’s singles Grand Slam titles list at Wimbledon, Novak Djokovic tells reporters that he is considering skipping the Olympics.
Novak Djokovic has successfully completed three legs of the Golden Slam, tennis’ holy grail, only achieved by Steffi Graf in 1988 and never by a male player. But the World No.1 is hesitating about travelling to Tokyo this summer to chase down the fourth leg, saying that the strict precautions put in place at the Olympics make it a tough sell.
Djokovic was asked by a reporter what he was feeling about the Olympics, given that spectators have now been officially banned from the Tokyo games.
“That’s not great news,” he said of hearing the news of a spectator-less Olympics. “I received that news yesterday or two days ago. That was really disappointing to hear.”
Djokovic: 50-50 – I have to think about it
The World No.1, a bronze medallist at the 2008 Beijing games, says he has also heard about some tough protocols regarding size of entourage.
“I also hear that there’s going to be a lot of restrictions within the Village,” he said. “Possibly you would not be able to see other athletes perform live. I can’t even have my stringer that is very important part of my team. I can’t have a stringer. I’m limited with the amount of people I can take in my team as well.”
The 34-year-old says he is undecided about playing at this point. The Olympic tennis event begins in two weeks, starting on July 24, with the final on August 1.
“I’ll have to think about it,” he said. “Right now, as I said, my plan was always to go to Olympic Games. But right now I’m a little bit divided. It’s kind of 50/50 because of what I heard in the last couple days.”
Calendar slam quest continues for Djokovic
Now that he’s at 20 major titles, Djokovic is eager to continue his quest to become the first male player to win all four Slams in the same calendar year since Rod Laver in 1969.
“It’s a dream come true, honestly,” said Djokovic. “I don’t take anything for granted. 20 Slams, every single one is very special – it’s like the first one.”
In a post-match interview with Darren Cahill of ESPN, he was asked how much he was looking forward to going to New York to chase down more tennis history. His answer gives hints about his current level of fatigue – at 34 it takes a great deal of mental energy and physical energy to make it through a major.
“I’m looking forward to it very much,” he said of continuing his Grand Slam winning streak, which has now reached 21. “But I am also looking forward to resting a little bit. Winning the biggest trophies in sport obviously means a lot, but it takes a lot of energy and a lot of effort, preparing, you just feel exhausted and it takes a little bit of time, but I’ve been pretty good with my recovery skills and abilities, so hopefully I’ll be able to play my best in New York again.”
Djokovic Olympic history – a bronze, but no gold
Djokovic’s decision would be a meaningful one for his legacy as he has never been able to capture a gold medal for Serbia. In 2008 he took bronze at Beijing and in 2012 he lost the bronze medal match against Juan Martin del Potro in London.
In 2016 he endured one his most heartbreaking losses when he was toppled by eventual silver medallist Juan Martin del Potro in his opening match.
In doubles Djokovic has won only one match, at the Rio games in 2016, where he lost in the second round alongside Nenad Zimonjic.
Djokovic has always talked about the importance of the Olympics, and playing for Serbia, even as recently as last week. After his third-round match at Wimbledon he expressed enthusiasm for Tokyo [before hearing that the Olympics would not allow fans].
“I’m very motivated to play Olympic Games and to fight for a medal,” he said. “I have a highest aspirations and ambitions going into Tokyo Olympics. Olympic Games happen every four years. It is the biggest sports event in the history of sport. Obviously representing the country for me is the highest of honour and a privilege. I always try to be there for Serbia and Serbian tennis.”
What would Djokovic withdrawal mean for ATP players?
It isn’t clear what Djokovic will decide at this point, but if he does elect to skip the Olympics his absence will open the door for a variety of players seeking to earn glory for themselves and country. Already eight of the ATP’s top-25 have opted out of the Tokyo Olympics, including Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem. If Djokovic doesn’t play, the door could be open for Roger Federer to chase an Olympic Gold in singles. Russians Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev, as well as Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas, would also be early candidates to benefit if Djokovic does elect to skip.
Federer, who fell in the quarter-finals against Hubert Hurkacz has not yet declared his intentions.
The Swiss has already hinted that he isn’t sure about much at the moment.
“Obviously we’re going to speak a little bit tonight, depending on how I feel, then the next couple of days as well. Then we go from there,” he said this week after falling to Hurkacz in straight sets. “Just see, ‘Okay, what do I need to do to get in better shape so I can be more competitive.'”
Federer, who will turn 40 next month, isn’t even sure if he’ll play Wimbledon in 2021.
“I’m actually very happy I made it as far as I did here and I actually was able to play Wimbledon at the level that I did after everything I went through. Of course I would like to play it again, but at my age you’re just never sure what’s around the corner.”
Perhaps a chance to win Olympic Gold will lure him back to the courts sooner than we think?