WIMBLEDON, England (AP) — Novak Djokovic knows that, as things stand now, Wimbledon will be his last Grand Slam tournament of 2022, because he will not be able to play in the U.S. Open — he has not received any COVID-19 shots and can’t enter the United States as an unvaccinated foreigner.
“That,” the 35-year-old from Serbia said Saturday at the All England Club, “is an extra motivation to do well here.”
Djokovic began this season tied with Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer at 20 major championships, then the record for a man. But Djokovic’s decision not to get vaccinated led to his deportation from Australia before the Australian Open in January — and Nadal wound up winning that tournament to get his 21st.
Nadal then beat Djokovic in the quarterfinals at the French Open en route to earning his 22nd Slam title this month.
When Wimbledon starts on Monday, Djokovic will have the honor of opening play at Centre Court as the defending champion. He is seeded No. 1 and will be bidding for a fourth consecutive title at the All England Club and seventh overall.
“Hopefully I can have a very good tournament, as I have done in the last three editions. Then I’ll just have to wait and see. I would love to go to States. But as of today, that’s not possible,” said Djokovic, who has come down with COVID-19 twice. “There is not much I can do anymore. I mean, it’s really up to the U.S. government to make a decision whether or not they allow unvaccinated people to go into the country.”
A reporter noted that Djokovic does still have time to get vaccinated before play begins at Flushing Meadows on Aug. 29, and then asked him whether “you’ve completely closed your mind to that as an option.”
Djokovic replied with one word: “Yes.”
Iga Swiatek is No. 1 in the WTA rankings, seeded No. 1 at Wimbledon, coming off a French Open championship and riding a 35-match winning streak heading into her opening match Tuesday at Centre Court.
She also won the junior title at the All England Club in 2018.
And yet Swiatek is quite clear about knowing that her career record in the main draw at the grass-court Grand Slam tournament is merely 3-2.
“Honestly I still feel like I need to figure out grass. Last year, for sure, it was that kind of tournament where I didn’t know what to expect. Then match by match, I realized maybe I can do more and more,” said Swiatek, a 21-year-old from Poland whose Wimbledon debut in 2019 ended in the first round before she got to the fourth round in 2021.
“I’m just trying to stay open-minded and kind of take positives from the situation and realize that I can play without any expectations,” she said. “I have so much … successes this season that I don’t have to kind of show everybody that I need to play well in every tournament because it’s tennis. We have ups and downs. So I try to play without expectations and just see what this tournament brings me.”
Nadal said after winning the French Open thanks to pain-killing injections to numb the chronic pain in his left foot that he wasn’t sure whether he would be able to show up at Wimbledon.
Well, here he is, halfway to a calendar-year Grand Slam for the first time, and he said Saturday that some new treatments he had after leaving Roland Garros did help calm the nerve that’s been flaring up — even if he pointed out that they didn’t “fix the injury.”
“First of all, I can walk normally most of the days, almost every single day. That’s, for me, the main issue,” Nadal said. “When I wake up, I don’t have this pain that I was having for the last year and a half. So quite happy about that.”
He said he’s been able to practice better over the last two weeks, without facing “these terrible days that I can’t move at all.”
The two-time Wimbledon champion, whose first match will be Tuesday, did caution: “I can’t be super happy, because I don’t know what can happen.”
CHANGES FOR 2022
Changes for the tournament this year include a shift to first-to-10-points, win-by-two tiebreakers at 6-all in the third set of women’s matches and fifth set of men’s matches; the first time play is planned for the middle Sunday, which traditionally has been a day off; a return to full capacity at all courts and the return of the queue for folks who want to camp out in order to try to get tickets, two years after the coronavirus pandemic led to the cancellation of Wimbledon entirely, and one year after the All England Club limited crowd sizes and temporarily eliminated the queue.