Wimbledon: Djokovic hoping for 'good news' on US Open after ending 'exhausting' period with title

By Sports Desk July 10, 2022

Novak Djokovic is hoping for a change of policy to allow him to feature at the US Open after ending an "exhausting and demanding period" by winning his seventh Wimbledon title.

Djokovic clinched his 21st grand slam win by recovering from one set down to beat Nick Kyrgios in Sunday's Wimbledon final, moving to within one major title of Rafael Nadal's record of 22.

On his 32nd grand slam final appearance – an Open Era record – the Serb claimed his fourth consecutive title at the All England Club with a 4-6 6-3 6-4 7-6 (7-3) victory in a tense encounter.

But it has not been plain sailing for Djokovic this year, who missed January's Australian Open after being deported over his refusal to be vaccinated against COVID-19, and was unable to enter the United States to play the Indian Wells Masters in March.

The United States still does not allow unvaccinated foreigners to enter the country without an exemption – meaning Djokovic's ability to appear in New York is in doubt.

But he is hopeful a change in policy could alter that state of affairs before the tournament gets underway on August 29, as he reiterated he would not get vaccinated and saw an exemption as unlikely. 

"It is a weird situation," Djokovic said. "I am on vacation. It has been quite an exhausting and demanding period for me. I got what I wanted here. 

"I'll wait hopefully for some good news [a change of policy] from the US. I'm not vaccinated and I'm not planning to get vaccinated. I don't think exemption is realistically possible.

"We'll have to see what the schedule looks like then. I doubt I'll chase points. Things have changed in the last year and a half for me. 

"I achieved the historic weeks of being ranked number one, that I worked for all my life. Now I prioritise slams and big tournaments where I feel good."

 

Djokovic's Wimbledon triumph comes at the end of a challenging few months, with the 35-year-old losing year's US Open final and exiting the 2022 French Open to Nadal either side of his much-publicised deportation from Australia. 

And the Serb, who claimed a first career win over Kyrgios on the biggest stage on Sunday, acknowledged: "This year has not been like last year.

"In the first several months of the year I was not at a good place mentally, emotionally. Everything that followed Australia has been a huge challenge and obstacle for me to overcome emotionally. 

"It wasn't that easy to close that chapter. It caused turbulence inside of me and I just had to weather the storm.

"I realised it would take time to regroup and rebalance. All these things off the court were causing so much distraction and pressure for me and the people around me. You can’t pretend it's not happening.

"By Rome and Paris I was already playing the tennis that I want to play. I liked my chances coming into Wimbledon. I think I managed everything pretty well today.

"Now I'm over the moon with joy and happiness of experiencing this moment once again. I don't take any wins for granted, and particularly not in Wimbledon. Every time feels special in its own way.

"Centre court and this tournament still has the most special place in my heart because it has always been my childhood dream tournament. Every time I step out on court it does not feel like anything else. I feel very connected with this court and this tournament. I'm very happy."

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  • The Numbers Game: England desperate to build momentum against Slovenia ahead of last 16 The Numbers Game: England desperate to build momentum against Slovenia ahead of last 16

    England know a win, but more importantly, a performance is needed when they face Slovenia in Cologne on Tuesday. 

    The Three Lions squandered the opportunity to secure qualification to the knockout stages of Euro 2024 after a lacklustre display against Denmark last time out.

    Harry Kane's 18th-minute opener had given Gareth Southgate's side an early advantage but, much like in their opening 1-0 win against Serbia, England then failed to capitalise on an early lead.

    This time they were punished on Thursday when Morten Hjulmand's effort from distance levelled proceedings, with Denmark perhaps unfortunate to not claim all three points. 

    Many involved with England have already acknowledged they must improve and alterations are expected in an attempt to build momentum heading into the last 16, should they get there. 

    Here, we use Opta data to preview the Three Lions' final Group C clash.

    What's expected?

    England are expected to win and top Group C, with the Opta supercomputer handing them a dominant 75.5% chance of getting the job done in Cologne.

    Slovenia are predicted a meagre 10.4% likelihood of claiming a maiden triumph against their opponents in the same data-led simulations, with a draw forecast slightly higher at 14.1%. 

    This will be only England and Slovenia’s second encounter at a major tournament, with the Three Lions winning 1-0 in the group stages of the 2010 World Cup, but Southgate's men have a fine record in this meeting.

    Slovenia have failed to win any of their six matches against England across all competitions (D1 L5). Greece and fellow Group C side Denmark are the only opponents they have faced on more occasions (seven) without ever winning a single match.

    Yet Matjaz Kek may fancy an upset here as the normally resolute England defence has come under fire at Euro 2024. The Three Lions have faced five more shots than they have attempted in Germany (17 shots, 22 faced).

    They have failed to have more attempts than their opponents in five of their last seven Euros group stages (1992, 2000, 2004, 2012, 2020), something that hasn't happened in any of their last seven World Cup group stage appearances between 1998 and 2022.

    England are also averaging just 8.9 shots per game at the Euros under Southgate (80 in nine games). Going into Matchday 3, that is the lowest shots per game any nation has had under a manager to take charge of them in more than five matches at the European Championship on record (since 1980).

    Southgate will be desperate for his side to rediscover the creative spark that some of their star players have found so easy to muster with their clubs. 

    Changes expected for England, but who will Southgate turn to?

    With a plethora of attacking talent, the right blend of experience and youth, along with players picked to travel to Germany based on current form, England arrived at Euro 2024 among the favourites to win the tournament. 

    However, any form of cohesion and fluidity is yet to transpire for Southgate's side as jeers echoed around the Frankfurt Arena from the travelling contingent after their underwhelming display against Denmark. 

    Kane, who scored 44 goals in all competitions in his debut 2023-24 season for Bayern Munich, had the least touches (22) of any England player who started the game on Thursday, while also managing just one touch in the Danes' penalty area. 

    England's attacking quartet of Bukayo Saka, Phil Foden, Jude Bellingham and Kane managed 114 goals between them in all competitions last season, yet Southgate's men managed just two shots on target, forcing the Three Lions boss into a triple change with 20 minutes to go.

    Eberechi Eze, Jarrod Bowen, and Ollie Watkins were introduced but created just one opportunity of note. Meanwhile, Anthony Gordon and Cole Palmer are still yet to make an appearance in the tournament, despite combining for 33 Premier League goals for Newcastle United and Chelsea respectively last term.

    Despite creating more chances (three) and playing more line-breaking passes in the final third (five) against Denmark, it looks likely that Trent Alexander-Arnold's time in midfield could be up, but it remains to be seen who will replace him. 

    Chelsea's Conor Gallagher has replaced him in England's last two games, but only completed 82.4% of his 17 passes against Denmark, also collecting a yellow card for his troubles. 

    Kobbie Mainoo and Adam Wharton are possible replacements and have shown in the Premier League they are more than capable of stepping up, yet an appearance alongside Declan Rice in midfield would mark both's first feature at a major tournament.

    All or nothing for Slovenia

    Slovenia know they must achieve the unlikely to keep their Euro 2024 journey alive, with their confidence taking a hit after coming inches away from securing a maiden success at the European Championships. 

    Luka Jovic's leveller in Thursday's 1-1 draw with Serbia marked the latest result-altering goal in a Euros match of all-time (excluding extra-time), with his equaliser timed at exactly 95 minutes.

    That late heartbreak leaves Slovenia winless across five matches at UEFA's flagship international tournament (D4 L1).

    It had started well for Kek's side when Zan Karnicnik netted his second international goal, but Slovenia succumbed to a familiar fate.

    Their opener was only the second time they'd gone ahead in a game at the finals, with the other instance coming against Yugoslavia at Euro 2000 when Slovenia led 3-0 before collapsing to a 3-3 draw.

    Benjamin Sesko showed the greatest promise for Slovenia, having the joint-most shots (two) and shots on target (one) for his side, but was loose in possession, ending the game with a pass accuracy of 55.8% – the second-lowest in the team. 

    Yet there is still hope for Kek as Slovenia are unbeaten in their last eight games in all competitions (W4 D4), only enjoying a longer such run once in history (nine games between September 2020 and March 2021).

    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    England – Harry Kane

    While much was made of Kane's performance against Denmark, there is no denying the quality he offers the Three Lions in and around the penalty area.

    The Bayern Munich striker has only managed two touches in the opposition box at Euro 2024 so far, the same total as both Kyle Walker and Alexander-Arnold.

    Yet Kane still scored his fifth goal in his last six appearances at the tournament, with only Wayne Rooney (six) and Alan Shearer (seven) managing more Euros goals for England.

    Slovenia – Petar Stojanovic

    With England expected to dominate possession on Tuesday, Slovenia's defence will have to be at their best to give them any chance of getting something from the game. 

    Right-back Petar Stojanovic won possession 11 times against Serbia, with only Ales Ceh at Euro 2000 against Spain (14) managing to win the ball back more often for Slovenia in a major tournament game.

  • Kane hits back at criticism as England captain urges pundits to support squad Kane hits back at criticism as England captain urges pundits to support squad

    Harry Kane insists he is fully fit and firing at Euro 2024 as the England captain reminded pundits of their responsibility, suggesting players "do hear" their scrutiny.

    The Bayern Munich talisman was withdrawn in the second half as England were held to a disappointing 1-1 draw with Denmark on Tuesday.

    Kane opened the scoring after just 18 minutes in that frustrating showing but has struggled to make a decisive impact in Germany, after also failing to deliver in England's opening 1-0 win over Serbia.

    The former Tottenham striker has only managed two touches in the opposition box at Euro 2024, the same total as both Kyle Walker and Trent Alexander-Arnold.

    That led to some scrutiny from some former players-turned-pundits, with Gary Lineker criticising Kane's tendency to drop deep and seemingly negative impact on Gareth Southgate's attempted press.

    Kane acknowledged the comments but suggested the likes of Lineker, an 80-cap England international, must remember their profile when encouraging scrutiny of the national side.

    "I'd never want to be disrespectful to any player, especially a player who's worn the shirt and knows what it's like to play for England," Kane said at Sunday's press conference before Tuesday's clash with Slovenia. 

    "I think what maybe ex-players or ex-players who are pundits now have got to realise is that it's very hard not to listen to it now, especially for some players who are not used to it or some players who are new to the environment. 

    "I always feel like they have a responsibility, I know they've got to be honest and give their opinion but also their responsibility of being an ex-player, an ex-England player that a lot of players looked up to.

    "People do care about what they say and people do listen to them. So like I touched on, everyone's got their opinion but the bottom line is we haven't won anything as a nation for a long, long time.

    "A lot of these players were part of that as well and they know how tough it is. It's not digging anyone out but it's just the reality that they do know that it's tough to play in these major tournaments and tough to play for England.

    "All I'd say is just remember what it was like to wear the shirt and that their words are listened to, you do hear it. We all want to win a major tournament.

    "I'm sure they want us to win a major tournament, and being as helpful as they can and building the lads up with confidence would be a much better way of going about it."

    Kane has scored five goals in his last six Euros appearances, with only Wayne Rooney (six) and Alan Shearer (seven) scoring more European Championship goals for England.

    The England skipper is also only the third player to score in four separate major tournaments for his country (2018 and 2022 World Cup, Euro 2020 and this edition), after Michael Owen and Wayne Rooney.

    Yet still his influence off the ball remains a question that many have posed to Southgate's tactics, but Kane insists he is fit and capable of leading from the front.

    "I'll give everything I have for however long I play," Kane responded when asked about his early withdrawal against Denmark. "If it's 70 minutes, if it's 90 minutes, if it's extra time, I physically feel more than capable of doing any of that.

    "I've done that my whole career and I've done that for pretty much the whole season as well. I'm feeling fresh and I'm feeling fit.

    "I know sometimes when I've had bad games or games not up to the standard, there's always something to look for and find a reason why. But sometimes it's just that's the game, or it's one or two games.

    "If this was in a league season, no one's really talking about it because it's in a small heightened environment.

    "Of course, there's more chatter. So the important thing is that from me personally, I feel fit, I feel ready and I'll play as long as the manager wants me to play."

  • Paul races to Queen's Championship title with straight-sets win Paul races to Queen's Championship title with straight-sets win

    Tommy Paul claimed his first title on grass with a straight-sets victory over Lorenzo Musetti at the Queen's Championship on Sunday.

    It took the American just 88 minutes to get his 6-1 7-6 (10-8) win after a front-footed, aggressive approach.

    Paul cruised through the opening set but looked like he might be forced into a decider after failing to serve out the match at 5-4.

    The Italian edged them into a tie-break, but Paul rallied from 1-4 down to get his hands on the title.

    His 27th tour-level win of the season also ensured he will surpass Taylor Fritz to become the American number one for the first time in his career on Monday.

    Data Debrief: Paul hits cruise control

    It was a dominant performance from Paul throughout Queen's as he only dropped a single set on his way to capturing his third ATP Tour title.

    On Sunday, he made just six unforced errors as he came out on top in his first-ever meeting with Musetti.

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