Djokovic confident he can push for eighth Wimbledon title after knee surgery: “I don’t see myself holding back”

The Serbian had knee surgery just over three weeks ago but says he’s ready to go

Novak Djokovic Imago / Panoramic

Novak Djokovic laid down a warning to his rivals for the Wimbledon title as he declared himself fit and ready to go just three weeks after knee surgery. “I don’t see myself holding back,” he said.

When Djokovic had his knee operation to heal a meniscus injury after his withdrawal before the quarter-finals at Roland-Garros, his chances of being ready for Wimbledon looked somewhere between slim and none.

But even at the age of 37, he has healed incredibly quickly and after another practice session at Wimbledon on Saturday, he said he feels he will be able to go flat out as he tries to win for an eighth time and equal Roger Federer.

“I go all in, I go full out”

“Once I step out on the court, it’s all about winning that match and doing everything I possibly can that is in my power to win the match,” he said. “I don’t see myself holding back. I don’t see myself calculating or being a bit more cautious in the movement. I don’t see that happening. Really, I go all in. I go full out. I mean, that’s the way I’ve been playing my entire career.

“If I don’t have the feeling that I can do that on Tuesday, I wouldn’t be speaking to you guys today. I wouldn’t be in the draw, that’s for sure. All the days that I’ve spent here give me only positive signs and encourage me to really think, not just think, but feel that I can do it.”

Djokovic was asked if he thought it might have been a risk to play Wimbledon so soon after the operation, not least since one of his main remaining goals is to try to win an Olympic gold medal, with the Paris Games just a month away.

“It’s more about that inner sensation of wanting to play Wimbledon”

The Serbian said Wimbledon was something special, even now, and that missing out when he had the chance to play was just not in his nature.

“I do have something that is described as a feeling of not missing out at a Grand Slam while I can still play and while I’m still active and at this level,” he said. “I wouldn’t call it a fear of missing out. I would just say it’s this incredible desire to play, just to compete. Particularly because it is Wimbledon, the tournament that always has been a dream tournament for me when I was a kid. I always dreamed of playing Wimbledon. Just the thought of me missing Wimbledon was just not correct. I didn’t want to deal with that.

“I’m going through this particular knee injury for the first time in my life, I wanted to see how fast can I really recover, and can I really be in a condition to compete best-of-five on grass with best players in the world.

“As I said few days ago, I didn’t come here to play a few rounds and prove to myself and others that I can actually compete in one or two matches. I really want to go for the title. So the last three days have given me enough optimism and good signs that I can actually be in a state to compete on the highest level for the next few weeks hopefully.

“I guess that’s in a nutshell really how I can explain. It’s probably less of a rational and logical explanation, but more of that inner feeling and sensation of really great desire to play Wimbledon. Any Grand Slam, but particularly Wimbledon for me.”

Djokovic said he’d chatted to several athletes who have been through the same kind of thing, including Taylor Fritz, who returned three weeks after surgery to play Wimbledon last year, Stan Wawrinka and the legendary skier Lindsey Vonn.

“hen after extensive conversations with certain athletes that have been through very similar situations, for example, Taylor Fritz who has been through something pretty much the same like I have three years ago. I think he injured himself also in Roland Garros. He said 21 days after he played his first round in Wimbledon. Wawrinka, Lindsey Vonn,

“They all shared their experiences,” he said. “Really, that gave me faith and optimism that if rehab is done right and correct, and if of course knee responds well, which is something that is very unpredictable, then there is a pretty good chance that I’ll make Wimbledon.

“I arrived here on Sunday. It’s been a week of training. Very good week of training. I had, particularly the last three days, very intense tennis sessions. I had points. Practice sets played with (Jannik) Sinner, with Frances Tiafoe, with (Daniil) Medvedev yesterday, and Emil Ruusuvuori, actually double session, and then today with (Holger) Rune, as well. Really top players that are playing great tennis on grass. High intensity.

“Lots of I guess situations on the court where the knee is tested to almost the maximum. Change of directions, so forth. The knee has responded very well to all of that so far, which of course then is a great sign for my participation in Wimbledon. That’s why I decided to be in the draw.”

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