Novak Djokovic will headline next week’s Dubai Tennis Championships despite admitting that he is yet to fully recover from his recent injury setback.
The world No.1 has enjoyed a dream start to the season by winning 12 matches in a row. He won his first title of the season at the Adelaide International before going on to claim a record-equalling 22nd Grand Slam title at the Australian Open. An achievement which has elevated him back to the top of the world rankings.
However, the Serbian has also been hampered by a hamstring issue which at one stage threatened to derail his winning streak. The exact details of the injury were never publicly disclosed by Djokovic’s team but the Australian Open tournament director, Craig Tiley, claimed the tennis star suffered a 3cm tear in the region.
“I’m not at 100 percent yet, but I’m getting closer. That’s why we made the decision together that I’m going to Dubai, I’m travelling tomorrow,” Djokovic told reporters in Belgrade on Wednesday afternoon.
“Ambitions are always the highest, regardless of the tournament.” He added.
Djokovic’s announcement comes amid uncertainty over his upcoming schedule. Next month the Tour moves to America where Masters 1000 events will be held in Indian Wells and Miami. As it currently stands Djokovic is not allowed to enter the country as he is unvaccinated against COVID-19. However, he has submitted an appeal for a special exemption to be given to him by authorities. America currently has a national public health emergency law in place to help curb the spread of the virus which will end in May.
“I am waiting for an answer, I would like to go, but it is not in my hands,” he said.
“I’m getting ready, but we’ll see in the next two weeks how things go. I’m glad I got the support of the tournament directors in Indian Wells and Miami. I hope the third party (American authorities) will give a positive response, that’s all I can say.”
When quizzed by reporters about the prospect of losing his appeal for a special exemption, the 35-year-old says there could be a silver lining to such a scenario which is that he will have more time to prepare for playing on the clay. Djokovic has won the French Open twice in his career so far which was in 2016 and 2021.
“Last year, for the first few months, I didn’t compete at all, not because of me and my health problems, but because of other reasons. This year everything started great but we’ll see. It (2023) started differently, I won Australia and I have a lot of self-confidence, so even if America doesn’t happen I’ll be in good shape,” Djokovic explained.
“I’ll have more time to prepare for clay, the most demanding surface. Nadal is the best player in history on that surface, I not bad either, and this year I will try to start the season better on clay, which was not the case in recent years.”
“The ultimate goal is always Roland Garros. I’m not sure what (other events) I’ll play on clay yet, but I know I’ll definitely play Monte Carlo and Banja Luka.”
Record-breaking reign and his future
Djokovic’s decision to speak with the media in his native Serbia coincides with the week where he has drawn level with Steffi Graf for the most weeks a player has held the world No.1 ranking (377). He is guaranteed to break this milestone next week regardless of how rival Carlos Alcaraz performs in Rio.
Alcaraz could draw level with Djokovic on points if he wins the South American event but wouldn’t be able to overtake him due to the ATP rulebook. If two players have the same points total, the first way to break the tie is to count the points won at majors, Masters 1000 events and the ATP Finals. In this scenario, Djokovic leads his Spanish rival by 5820 points against 5090.
“I am happy that I managed to catch up to Steffi Graf’s record. I have said countless times that this sport is everything in my life, I have subordinated everything to it and I am very lucky to have a great team of people around me, not only professional but also a family that gave me unreserved support to stand here today with all the achievements,” Djokovic commented.
As for how much longer he thinks he can keep going on the Tour, Djokovic says he has no plans to limit himself as he once again brushes aside speculation over his retirement.
“I don’t have a final number and a limit to which I will play, although people automatically start after 30 to ask the question in all sports when is the end. Me, Federer and Nadal have often encountered those questions since we passed 30,” he said.
“(The) hunger is still present, although I would characterize it more as a passion for sports and a desire for competition. I like to play tennis recreationally with my son, and with the children. It’s not that I have an aversion to tennis because it takes up a large part of my life, but professionally I have the desire to continue to record historical results.”
NOTE – Quotes have been translated from Serbian to English
ATP RANKINGS UPDATE: Novak Djokovic, No.1 once more
After the US Open the Serbian champion reclaims top spot. Alexander Zverev is back in the Top 10
By Roberto Ferri
“Don’t ever underestimate the heart of a champion”
Rudy Tomjanovich coined this maxim just after his Houston Rockets won the NBA championship in 1995. He was paying homage to Akeem Holajuwon. It perfectly suits the heart of Daniil Medvedev, who proved 99% of tennis fans in the world to be wrong, convinced as they were that he would lose the semifinal to former No 1 Carlos Alcaraz.
But his dream to win a second US Open, after his triumph in 2021, was shattered by another champion, whose heart and class is even greater: that’s Novak Djokovic, who affixes his seal on his return to No.1, equalling Margaret Court Smith’s record of 24 majors.
Djokovic dethroning Alcaraz is not the only change in the top 20: Sascha Zverev is back in the top 10 after almost one year and Ben Shelton, great protagonist of the Us Open, debuts in the top 20 best players in the world.
A few comments:
Stefanos Tsitsipas, Andrei Rublev and Alexander Zverev gain 2 positions.
Ben Shelton devours 28 positions.
Sinner, Tiafoe, Norrie and Dimitrov lose one.
Casper Ruud and Karen Khachanov, runner up and semi-finalist respectively at the 2022 US Open, drop 4 positions.
One step forward for Fritz, de Minaur, Paul, Auger-Aliassime and Hurkacz.
ATP NITTO FINALS
From 12 to 19 November the 8 best players of the ranking based on the points earned in the ongoing solar season will be playing the Nitto ATP Finals in Turin.
Will Novak Djokovic succeed in winning a second straight title? He appears to be heading in the right direction.
Thanks to his triumph at the US Open the Serbian overtakes Alcaraz also in the Race to Turin.
Jannik Sinner holds fourth spot while Andrei Rublev overtakes Stefanos Tsitsipas and is now fifth.
The eighth position is occupied by Alexander Zverev.
Last year runner up, Casper Ruud is currently 10th. This means he would feature in Turin as a reserve.
ATP NEXT GENERATION FINALS
The Next Gen Finals, dedicated to the best under 21s, (8 effectives and 2 reserves) of the season will take place this year in Gedda, Saudi Arabia.
The 2022 winner, Brandon Nakashima, will not be defending his title, since he was born in 2001.
Taking for granted that Alcaraz and, most likely Rune, will be playing the ATP Finals, we have included in the chart the 12 current top under 21s.
Besides Ben Shelton, other 11 players have achieved their career highest this week.
We tribute a double applause to the four players who are making their debut in the top 100.
The 25-year-old Croatian Borna Gojo, 22-year-old Australian Rinky Hijkata and the Swiss next gen Dominic Stricker all reap the reward for their brilliant runs at the US Open. Seyboth Wild, the Brazilian who stunned Medvedev in the first round of Roland Garros leaps to No.76 after winning the Challenger in Como last week.
Translated by Kingsley Elliot Kaye
COMMENT: Novak Djokovic Proves His Greatness At US Open
Love him, or hate him. But respect him.
No tennis player has ever been better than Novak Djokovic.
Even Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer have to take their hats off to Novak, and admire him.
Now that Rafa and Roger have left Djokovic on his own stage at least for now, tennis fans love Novak.
DJOKOVIC WENT ONE STEP FURTHER
Djokovic’s performance on Sunday evening in the U.S. Open final was simply amazing. Daniil Medvedev also played his heart out, but Djokovic went one step further. He was sensational.
It was a thrill-a-minute three-set match. It lasted well into the night after starting at mid-afternoon. The second set alone lasted 104 minutes.
Djokovic was the winner, 6-3, 7-6 (5), 6-3, but New York still loves 2021 champion Medvedev.
A FOURTH AND 24TH TITLE, AND A 24 TRIBUTE
At 36, the oldest U.S. Open men’s champion ever, Djokovic obviously has a special place in his heart for the number four. It’s the number of times he has won this tournament and the 24th time he has won a Grand Slam title.
The number 24 also was displayed prominently on the white jacket. Novak, his team members and family wore for the victory celebration as a tribute to the No. 24 jersey of deceased friend Kobe Bryant.
Djokovic lost his footing at least three times in the tight second set, stumbling to the surface once, apparently due to the length of the rallies.
Djokovic could look like he was almost completely wiped out of it physically one minute, and then play like Superman the next minute.
THREE POINTS MAY HAVE BEEN DECISIVE
Both men played great tennis, especially in the thrill-a-second second set in which Medvedev gained one set point in the 12th game before Djokovic recovered to force a tiebreaker.
Medvedev appeared to be in charge after out-playing Novak to win one of his drop shots to take a 5-4 lead in the tiebreaker. The match may have been decided on the next three points, all won by Djokovic on errors by the 6-6 Russian.
The big question now is what happens next January in the Australian Open. Right now, Djokovic probably wants to play . . . and win what has been his favorite tournament as far as success. But things can change quickly for players in their mid-30s. Just ask Roger or Rafa.
James Beck was the 2003 winner of the USTA National Media Award. A 1995 MBA graduate of The Citadel, he can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com.
Alcaraz Fell Victim To Unbeatable Medvedev
Carlos Alcaraz was no match for Daniil Medvedev in the US Open semi-finals.
A star had to fall. There was no other way.
This time, Carlos Alcaraz was the victim. Daniil Medvedev was unbeatable.
The 6-6 Russian was everywhere, playing almost perfect tennis in a 7-6 (3), 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 win over Alcaraz.
So, one former champion went down while one advanced to Sunday’s final at the U.S. Open.
And then there was Novak Djokovic, another former champion headed for the title match.
U.S. OPEN WAS THE BIG WINNER FRIDAY
The U.S. Open couldn’t lose once Djokovic dominated young American Ben Shelton, 6-3, 6-2, 7-6 (4).
Djokovic appeared to be content with just winning while getting the preliminaries over with. He seemed to be a little miffed by Shelton’s cockiness. There were no hugs or embraces when the match ended. Just a handshake.
Shelton has huge potential, but it’s going to take some time before he’s ready to join the likes of Djokovic, Medvedev and Alcaraz. He’s a better athlete than he is tennis player.
Novak is ready to go for a record 24th Grand Slam title.
Believe it or not, Medvedev will be playing in his fifth Grand Slam final.
Sunday should be a great day in Arthur Ashe Stadium, with two former champs, Djokovic and Medvedev, going against each other.
CAN COCO HIT WITH SABALENKA
The women’s final will be interesting. Can Coco Gauff compete with Aryna Sabalenka?
Sabalenka looked helpless against Madison Keys’ big strokes and serves in the first set of their semifinal on Thursday.
Sabalenka couldn’t win even one game in that set. She looked helpless.
But she obviously felt all along that she could beat Keys anytime she wanted. Or why else would the powerful Sabalenka go for broke on almost every shot? And it almost cost her.
Amazingly, Sabalenka waited almost to the final moments to decide to play within her game and stop the wildness.
Once Sabalenka decided to settle down and play to win, Keys went just the opposite way, similarly to her one-sided loss to Sloane Stephens in the 2017 U.S. Open final.
Keys appeared ready to win this time as she held a 6-0, 5-4 advantage over new world’s No. 1 Sabalenka, who seemed to be stumbling all over the court as she repeatedly hit wild shots in every direction.
Just like that, everything changed. Sabalenka started hitting winners everywhere as Keys reversed roles with Sabalenka. Not only did Sabalenka win the second set while dropping just one point in a tiebreaker, she stormed through a decisive 10-point third-set tiebreaker to win the match.
James Beck was the 2003 winner of the USTA National Media Award. 1995 MBA graduate of The Citadel, he can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com.
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