The Serb won his 21st Grand Slam title on Sunday, beating Nick Kyrgios in the final to lift another Wimbledon trophy for the seventh time and fourth straight at SW19.
However, as it stands, Djokovic’s immediate future remains unclear. Due to his anti-Covid-19 vaccination stance, his current participation in upcoming US and Australian Grand Slams has been questioned.
“I just needed time to weather the storm”
Djokovic has endured a rocky few months off the pitch and that has seeped into his game.
In January, Djokovic was finally expelled from Australia after a long history, including a period in detention, that prevented him from participating in the Australian Open because he refused to be vaccinated against Covid-19.
Though he’s slowly but surely returned to action, the former world No. 1 said he’s had to “weather a storm” during that time.
“The first few months of this year shaped me,” he said after his Wimbledon victory. “Mentally and emotionally I wasn’t in a good place. I felt so much pressure.
“It caused turbulence in me. I just needed time to weather the storm. At some point I realized it was just going to take time and that was it, time for me to regroup to be on the pitch in a to achieve optimal balance off the pitch.”
Goran Ivanisevic, Djokovic’s coach and 2001 Wimbledon winner, praised the 21-time Grand Slam winner’s ability to return after a “tough year”.
“It was a big thing what happened to him. We all expected him after a few weeks: ‘Okay, forget Australia, let’s go back and train. It doesn’t happen like that,'” said Ivanisevic.
“It took a long time, Monte-Carlo, Belgrade, then he started playing better, Madrid, Rome. Even he played well in Paris, but Rafa (Nadal) was a better player that night.
“For some people they don’t recover. They will never play tennis. That was a big shock. Was a shock for me and I was there. I was free. Imagine that for him.
“It’s unbelievable how he’s recovered and how he got through it. It’s really heroic for me because it wasn’t easy to digest it all and play tennis again. Then you’re like, ‘Why do you have to play tennis? ? ‘”
Despite his return to select tournament action, his vaccination record against Covid-19 has limited his participation in others.
He has missed tournaments in the US like Indian Wells or the Miami Open throughout the year because every non-US citizen must be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 to get a visa and enter the country.
And it looks like he wouldn’t be allowed to play at the US Open, which is due to start on August 29, as he hasn’t been vaccinated.
Djokovic didn’t sound particularly optimistic about competing at Flushing Meadows given the current situation – although he said he would “really love” playing there.
“I have not been vaccinated and do not intend to be vaccinated, so the only good news I can have is that they require the mandatory green vaccination card or whatever you call it to enter the United States, or a Remove exemption,” he said.
“I don’t think that an exemption is realistically possible. If that’s possible, I don’t know what an exemption is about. I dont know. I don’t have many answers to that. I think it’s just a matter of whether or not they remove this in time for me to get to the US.”
In fact, the 35-year-old is also not allowed to play at the Australian Open 2023 due to current Australian immigration laws.
That could mean Djokovic – one of the greatest to ever appear in tennis – would take to the court in a Grand Slam in May 2023 at next year’s French Open.
He remains one Grand Slam title behind Nadal’s all-time record of 21 and offers an insight into his future, with prioritizing the biggest events set to be his main focus.
“To be honest, I doubt I’ll be going for points,” he said. “As I found out from my agent today, a Grand Slam win would qualify you for the World Tour Finals unless you’re not in the top 20, which I don’t know. With the points I’ve collected so far, I’ll probably make it into the top 20.
“I think I have a good chance of being in the final. I’m not going to burden myself with actually having to play tournaments and earn points.
“I don’t really feel any pressure or need to play a specific schedule. And things have changed in the last few years, a year and a half for me. I’ve reached this historic #1, weeks for #1 I’ve worked for my entire life. Now that that’s done and dusted, I’m really prioritizing slams and big tournaments and where I want to play where I feel good.
He added: “Could be the Laver Cup, the Davis Cup is coming too. I love playing for my country. I’ll try to be a part of it. Next, the season is over, right? Those are the big, let’s say, tournaments that I have in mind right now.”