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The GOAT race heats up as Novak Djokovic, looking like his old self, wins his 21st major title at Wimbledon

Novak Djokovic is one shy of Rafael Nadal in the all-time men’s singles Grand Slam title race after claiming his seventh Wimbledon title. As the US Open looms, we take stock.

Novak Djokovic Wimbledon 2022 Serbia’s Novak Djokovic celebrates after winning the men’s singles final against Australia’s Nick Kyrgios || AI / Reuters / Panoramic

Novak Djokovic is a seven-time Wimbledon champion – and a 21-time major champion – after Sunday’s 6-4, 3-6, 6-4, 7-6(3) triumph over Nick Kyrgios, and once again the race to the all-time Grand Slam men’s ingles titles list is heating up.

After winning the first two majors of the 2022 season, Rafael Nadal holds the lead with 22 majors titles, Djokovic is in second with 21, while Roger Federer, inactive since Wimbledon 2021, has 20 major titles.

The Grand Slam stage will now switch to New York, but at the moment it is unclear if Djokovic will be able to join the competition. At present, Djokovic is forbidden to enter the United States due to his decision to remain unvaccinated, and this critical detail could play a large role in what happens next.

And after that, there are still some that believe Djokovic may have visa issues early in 2023, when the Australian Open rolls around. Though he has had a temporary reprieve in London, Djokovic’s frustration with the powers that be may not be over yet.

Nadal still in the lead

Djokovic’s current situation seems to play into Rafael Nadal’s hands, just as it did this year in Australia, where the Spaniard took the Australian Open title two weeks after Djokovic was deported from the country without having a chance to play for what could have been his tenth title in Melbourne.

Nadal, who withdrew from his semi-final at Wimbledon due to an abdominal tear, has not lost a Grand Slam match in 2022 (19-0), and he critically defeated Djokovic in four sets en route to his 14th Roland-Garros title.

All-time men’s singles Grand Slam titles | Finals

  • Nadal 22 titles from 31 finals
  • Djokovic 21 titles from 32 finals
  • Federer 20 titles from 31 finals

36-year-old Nadal plans to be fit in time to play this summer in the United States and will be one of the top favourites to win the title in New York, where he is already a four-time champion.

Federer, meanwhile, does not plan to play at the US Open.

Djokovic –  I’m not vaccinated and I’m not planning to get vaccinated

The Serb’s only hope to enter the United States to play the US Open would be if the government loosened its restrictions for entry regarding Covid-19. Under current regulations, Djokovic would have to be vaccinated to enter.

Djokovic restated his unwillingness to change his vaccination status again on Sunday at Wimbledon.

“I’m not vaccinated and I’m not planning to get vaccinated so the only good news I can have is them removing the mandated vaccine card to enter United States,” Djokovic said.

He says that he is unlikely to pursue an exemption, like he did in Australia.

“I don’t think exemption is realistically possible,” said the Serb. “If that is possibility, I don’t know what exemption would be about. I don’t know. I don’t have much answers there.

“I think it’s just whether or not they remove this in time for me to get to USA.”

It’s not over for Federer yet

Though Federer has been stuck at 20 major titles since he won the Australian Open in 2018, he does hold out hopes of returning to the Grand Slam stage in 2023.

Federer, who is playing at Laver Cup and Basel later this season, says he does intend to play on tour next season.

“How and where, I don’t know yet. But that would be the idea. Definitely,” he said.

Last week at Wimbledon Federer appeared at the centenary celebration and told the crowd that he hoped to return to Centre Court as a player.

“I hope I can come back one more time,” he told the crowd.

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