Djokovic hungry for more Grand Slams, eyes number 24 at Wimbledon
Novak Djokovic is in search of another major while 43-year-old Venus Williams is ready to play until she is 50.
Novak Djokovic is not resting on his laurels after claiming the all-time men’s record with his 23rd Grand Slam title last month.
The Serbian said that he is already eyeing number 24 at Wimbledon, where he is the defending champion.
Djokovic passed Rafael Nadal’s tally of 22 Grand Slams when he won the French Open last month and, though his old Spanish rival will not be challenging for titles this year due to injury, Djokovic has no plans to put his feet up and relax.
The 36-year-old has won the last four Wimbledon crowns and is one shy of tying Roger Federer’s men’s record of eight titles at the All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club. He also now sits just one Grand Slam behind Margaret Court, who won a record 24.
“I don’t feel more relaxed, to be honest. I still feel hungry for success, for more Grand Slams, more achievements in tennis,” Djokovic told reporters.
“As long as there’s that drive, I know that I’m able to compete at the highest level. If that goes down, then I guess I’ll have to face probably different circumstances and have a different approach.
“So far, there’s still the drive. A few days after Roland Garros, I was already thinking about preparation for grass and what needs to be done.
“The tennis season is such that it doesn’t really give you much time to really reflect or enjoy.”
Djokovic said that although he was proud of his historic achievement, life as a professional player demands that kind of mentality and intensity as he looks to win as many majors as he can before his body can take no more.
“If you really want to have a chance and have a go at more Slam titles, you need to maintain that concentration and devotion,” he said.
“I want to try to use every Grand Slam opportunity I have at this stage where I’m feeling good in my body, feeling motivated and playing very good tennis, to try to get more.”
Djokovic comes into Wimbledon as the second seed this year with 20-year-old Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz now world number one after his first title on grass at Queen’s. However, that does not faze the Serbian.
“I think for someone his age, it’s impressive, everything he [Alcaraz] is doing. With his team, of course, he’s got Juan Carlos Ferrero, former world number one, in his corner who can guide him and mentor him,” Djokovic said.
“For me, I don’t need to have Carlos or anybody else really to find that extra drive and motivation when I enter Slams because I know that I have to win seven matches to win a title.
“So, whoever I get to face across the net, it doesn’t make a difference for me. I need to do what I need to do.”
Djokovic will begin his Wimbledon title defence against Argentina’s 67th-ranked Pedro Cachin on Monday.
World number one Alcaraz is the new big thing in men’s tennis but says Djokovic remains the favourite to retain his Wimbledon title this month.
The 20-year-old Alcaraz won the prestigious Queen’s Club title last week in what was only his third tournament on grass, moving back to the top of the rankings at the same time.
He will also be seeded number one for Wimbledon on his third appearance at the All England Club with some tipping him for the title, but on Sunday he said Djokovic is the man to beat.
“I’m coming here to Wimbledon with a lot of confidence, thinking that I’m able to do good results here,” the US Open champion told reporters on Sunday.
“But obviously, for me, the main favourite is Djokovic. He always makes everything seem easy. It’s really tough to find some weakness in his game.
“My expectations are high. I think I will be able to put the pressure on the other players, even Djokovic as well. I feel confident and I feel ready to do good things here.”
Alcaraz reached the fourth round last year when he was beaten by Italian youngster Jannik Sinner but has since moved ahead of his peers, taking the tennis world by storm.
He will start against experienced Frenchman Jeremy Chardy on Tuesday and, while his early draw looks reasonable, he could face Germany’s Alexander Zverev or Alex de Minaur, the Australian he beat in the Queen’s final, in the fourth round.
Expectation is high for the Spaniard, but he says he is not feeling any pressure and will play his naturally aggressive game from the get-go.
“I know what I have to do. For me it’s to play, play my best, try to win tournaments,” he said.
“I don’t think about being number one too much. I’m trying to put out all that pressure. I always say that I try to play aggressive all the time. I think that’s the most important thing here on grass: to be aggressive, go to the net, try to hit big shots. I’m always trying on every surface.”
Twenty-six years after Venus Williams made her Wimbledon debut, the five-time champion will be back on Centre Court once again on Monday and the 43-year-old American said she could even play until she is 50.
“It’s never been done before so if there is anyone who could do it, it would be me,” Williams told reporters ahead of her showdown with fellow wildcard Elina Svitolina.
Her sister, Serena, bowed out of the sport at the US Open last year as the greatest female player of the Open era with 23 Grand Slam titles.
Venus, however, has soldiered on through injuries despite falling out of the top 1,000 in the rankings at one stage last year, but she has no plans of following her younger sister into retirement any time soon.
Following an appearance in Auckland in January, she took time off for six months to recover from a hamstring injury and has played only three matches on grass, arriving at the All England Club ranked 554.
“[The injury was] a nightmare and a terribly difficult rehab. I haven’t played a lot of matches in the last few years and not by choice,” Williams said.
“So, I wanted to be [playing] and I couldn’t. I put my head down and put even more work in and got myself in a much better position.”
Of those three matches, her only win came against Camila Giorgi — a former Wimbledon quarterfinalist — in Birmingham.
But Williams will take heart in coming out on top despite knee problems after a gruelling battle that lasted more than three hours.
Williams has not won a singles title on the WTA Tour since 2016 and when asked what keeps her going, she said with a smile: “Well, there’s really great insurance benefits on the tour!”
No pressure for Świątek
World number one and French Open champion Iga Świątek also plays on the first day of the championships when she takes on China’s Zhu Lin in the first round.
The Pole said she is better prepared for the grasscourt swing this year after buckling under the pressure of the number one ranking in 2022 in a third-round exit.
“Last year, I felt a lot of pressure here because I was number one,” she said.
“I feel like this time … I could just focus on practising, actually learning a lot. So, hopefully, I’m going to be able to use that in my matches.”
Fans will also see the return of one of their favourites, last year’s runner-up Nick Kyrgios, as the mercurial Australian returns from knee surgery with just one match under his belt in 2023 ahead of his match against David Goffin.
Four Americans will be in action against each other, with Sofia Kenin taking on seventh seed Coco Gauff, while fourth seed Jessica Pegula faces Lauren Davis. DM