Novak Djokovic hopes to hold off the future as he targets eighth Wimbledon title

By Sports Desk July 13, 2023

Novak Djokovic hopes to show Wimbledon’s poster boy for the future Jannik Sinner that he is not ready to give up his Centre Court crown just yet.

The 36-year-old is gunning for a fifth straight title in SW19, which would move him level with record-holder Roger Federer on eight, but must first get past Sinner in Friday’s semi-final.

The Italian, 21, featured prominently in an official pre-tournament poster alongside Carlos Alcaraz as the future of the Championships. His presence on illustrator Grant Gruenhaupt’s artwork raised eyebrows but he is living up to the hype after reaching his first grand slam semi-final.

Djokovic rates Sinner as a future star, but the Serbian is motivated to reach yet another final.

“He’s playing on a very high level. He likes to play on grass,” Djokovic said.

“He likes to play on quick surfaces because he likes to be aggressive and take control of the point. From both forehand and backhand, he’s smashing the ball really, really hard, trying to be the one that is going to dictate the point from early on. I know his game well.

“He’s so young, so of course it’s expected that he’s going to improve. He is improving, no doubt, I think with the serve. He’s been serving better. On grass, obviously makes a difference.

“He’s a very complete player. Now first time in semis of Wimbledon. I’m looking forward to that challenge. I’m sure that he’s going to be very, very motivated to win. On the other hand, I am, too.”

Sinner will have bad memories of playing Djokovic at Wimbledon after losing in last year’s quarter-final, having gone two sets up.

Asked what he took from that experience, he replied smiling: “First of all, you have to go up two sets to love.

“In the other way, it’s going to be a completely different match than last year. He knows me better as I know him better also. It’s going to be also a little bit tactical.

“In the other way, it is also a little bit mental, no? If you play against Novak, it’s always tough to play here, especially on grand slams.

 

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“It’s for sure one of the toughest, if not the toughest, challenge in front of me. He has won 23 grand slams. Won Australia, won Paris. He is in a huge confidence boost also.

 

“It’s going to be tough, but I will obviously try my best. Last year I played a very good match against him. I have learned about it.”

Daniil Medvedev could provide Russian presence on finals weekend if he gets past world number one Alcaraz.

Medvedev was banned from playing in last year’s tournament, but has returned in style, flying under the radar to his first Wimbledon semi-final.

Despite the situation with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Medvedev says he has felt the support from the crowd.

“It’s been amazing,” he said. “It’s been amazing. Let’s see how it is on Centre Court because so far I have been playing only on Court One. I think it’s going to be the same. It’s going to be amazing to play Carlos next.

Alcaraz will provide his toughest test yet as the Spaniard is playing well enough to suggest that Centre Court could become a very happy hunting ground in the future.

On reaching the last four, Alcaraz said: “It’s a dream for me. It’s a dream for me to be able to play semi-final here in Wimbledon.

“I’m going to say, Medvedev’s an octopus. He catches every ball. It is amazing. He’s an amazing athlete.”

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    The world number one held off the challenge of the home favourite to win 6-4, 7-6 (7-3), 6-4, setting him on his way to a potential 25th Grand Slam title.

    Djokovic enjoyed a fairly comfortable first set but had to work hard to win the second as Hubert took a more aggressive approach. He steadied in time for a crucial tie-break though, holding his nerve to secure it.

    The Serbian regained control in the final set, sealing the win after a double fault from Hubert to set up a second-round tie against Roberto Carballes Baena.

    Data Debrief: Djokovic's title defence off to a good start

    Djokovic (367) trails only Roger Federer (369) for Men’s Singles match wins at Grand Slam events in the Open Era, and could overtake him with a strong showing at the French Open.

    He is now 72-2 in opening round matches at Grand Slam events, winning his past 69 such matches. Djokovic’s last opening round loss came via retirement at the 2011 US Open against Conor Niland.

  • Alcaraz and Sinner's ability same level as 'Big 4', believes Simon Alcaraz and Sinner's ability same level as 'Big 4', believes Simon

    Carlos Alcaraz and Jannik Sinner have the ability of the 'Big 4' if they can keep up their consistency, former world number six Gilles Simon believes.

    Alcaraz won his first grand slam title at the US Open in 2022, becoming the youngest world number one in the history of the ATP rankings at 19 years, four months, and six days, before winning his first Wimbledon title in 2023.

    Alcaraz beat Daniil Medvedev to win Indian Wells in March but has since struggled with an arm injury, with his last match before Roland Garros coming in the quarter-final of the Madrid Open on May 1.

    He beat J.J. Wolf in straight sets on Sunday to progress to the second round of the French Open, where he will face Jesper De Jong.

    Simon, speaking at the Roland-Garros eSeries by Renault tournament, believes in the Spaniard's ability, comparing him to some of the big names in the sport.

    He said: "I think that Alcaraz has the level of the big 3 or big 4 that we've had because he really has a level that's very high.

    "In other words, when his tennis is up and running, it's really hard to beat him. And I see him at the same level as [Rafael] Nadal, Novak [Djokovic], [Roger] Federer, even at their best, because he's got that level.

    "On the other hand, he can't keep it up at the moment, every week, with the consistency that those players have had. But he's young, he's still very young, and he's going to keep winning, keep progressing, keep raising his game.

    "Maybe he'll reach the level of those players. Last year, we saw him do very well at Roland Garros but ultimately lose due to cramp. But then he wins at Wimbledon, and you think that's it, he's reached that level [of the big 3].

    "Yes, he was there over that period, not over ten months for the moment. And I've no doubt he'll be there, but it's going to be complicated."

    Meanwhile, Sinner has enjoyed a strong start to 2024 saw him win his first Grand Slam at the Australian Open, following up with wins in Rotterdam and Miami.

    The Italian also cruised through his opening round at Roland Garros with a straight-sets win over Christopher Eubanks and is set to face Richard Gasquet next on Monday.

    "As far as I'm concerned, [Sinner's] at a slightly lower level than Alcaraz. But his average level is higher than that of Alcaraz. So that's where it's interesting," Simon added.

    "So far, Jannik has been able to show consistency for over six months, from the end of last season to his injuries at the start of the clay-court season.

    "He's been in the final of almost every tournament for six months, or a winner. His consistency is reminiscent of that of the Big 4.

    "But what's interesting is that he lost his big match at Indian Wells, against Alcaraz, who suddenly regained his level and overtook him. So that's how I see it."

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    She will play a qualifier – either Irene Burillo Escorihuela or Moyuka Uchijima – in the next round of the competition.

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    Andreeva, meanwhile, was always likely to find the going tough and won just eight of her 23 points on first serve as she was broken five times across the contest. The 19-year-old is yet to reach a grand slam second round.

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