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Novak Djokovic will play at Wimbledon just a few weeks after his knee surgery

Novak Djokovic will play at Wimbledon just a few weeks after his knee surgery

WIMBLEDON, England — If Novak Djokovic performs well at Wimbledon this year, he will have Taylor Fritz to thank.

The 26-year-old Californian was on the shortlist of athletes Djokovic called up after suffering a tear to the medial meniscus of his right knee in the fourth round of Roland Garros.

Djokovic was all but ruled out of Wimbledon because the surgery he underwent on June 5 to repair the tear typically takes three to six weeks to recover from. But the seven-time champion knew Fritz was undergoing the same procedure in 2021 and played his first-round match at Wimbledon just 21 days later. Djokovic tapped into his network of elite athletes, also talking to three-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka and champion pick Lindsey Vonn about their experiences recovering from the same surgery, and decided to give Wimbledon a shot.

So far, so good. The 37-year-old Djokovic reported on Saturday that his knee has responded well after playing practice sets against Daniil Medvedev, Frances Tiafoe, Holger Rune and Jannik Sinner all week, and that he has not had any setbacks in his recovery. , who meets the description Carlos Alcaraz used for him earlier in the day during a Spanish-language press conference: ‘superhumano’.

Djokovic laughed when he heard that.

“I still have a few days left. I’ll play on Tuesday,” he said. “I am confident in the health of my knee and the general physical condition is just very good. Once the tournament starts, I think I will have more sensations and more feedback on how (the) knee responds to a best-of-five Grand Slam match. So far everything that has been done has been very positive.”

Djokovic said he will not feel the need to nurse his knee when he takes the court for his first-round match against Vit Kopriva of the Czech Republic. He wouldn’t be in the draw if he didn’t feel he could play at his normal intensity.

But just because Djokovic can play doesn’t mean he should. He acknowledged Saturday that he’s taking a risk, especially at his age, and especially as he plans to take on the full challenge that’s on the tennis schedule this summer, with the Paris Olympics sandwiched between Wimbledon and the US Open.

Djokovic has won his seven Wimbledon titles in 18 appearances, reaching the final in each of the past five years. His record 24 Grand Slam titles appears secure, and what has been seen as the driving force of his career – the need to prove himself – has been removed from the equation.

The only thing left is his nature.

“I would just say it’s an incredible desire to play, just to compete. Especially because it’s Wimbledon, the tournament that has always been a dream tournament for me when I was a kid. I always dreamed of playing Wimbledon play,” he said. “Just the idea of ​​missing Wimbledon just wasn’t right. I didn’t want to have to deal with that.”

He will play on Tuesday as the greats of his generation continue to fade, inevitably losing battles to age and injury. Andy Murray, 37, is in the draw but had back surgery a week ago to remove a cyst and has not yet made a final decision about playing singles (he was given a wildcard to play doubles with his brother Jamie). Rafael Nadal, 38, opted to skip Wimbledon in hopes of preserving his body for the Olympics.

“I know that the Olympic Games will take place immediately afterwards on a completely different terrain. I know all that,” he said. ‘But I’m thinking of Wimbledon. It’s a dream tournament. I had to focus all my attention on that. … I haven’t had any setbacks. If I had one setback, I would question whether or not I should be here. “But I haven’t had one yet. Why don’t you give it a try?”