Our media day starts with the defending Men’s Singles champion Novak Djokovic who enters Wimbledon as the man to beat having won a record-breaking 23rd Grand Slam title at Roland Garros.
Djokovic is now the leader of the most Grand Slam Men’s singles titles won overtaking Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer as he cements his place in the history books.
However the Serb isn’t stopping there as he spoke to the media about being ‘hungry for success’ and admits he is not relaxed despite already sealing his legacy.
“I don’t feel more relaxed, to be honest. I still feel hungry for success, for more Grand Slams, more achievements in tennis,” Djokovic said in his press conference.
“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.
“Of course, I did enjoy with my family, but not for so long. Even though, of course, a lot of people are coming up to me and congratulating me, reminding me of the historic success, which is nice of course, it’s very flattering, but at the same time my mind was already and is already directed towards Wimbledon, what’s the next slam, what’s the next task. That’s the life of the professional tennis player. I think that kind of mentality is necessary for I guess maintenance of that intensity. If you really want to have a chance and have a go at more slam titles, you need to maintain that concentration and devotion.
“So, yeah, that’s where I am. Of course, part of me is very, very proud and very thrilled to be able to be in this position and have 23 slams. 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.”
A highly motivated Djokovic could be bad news for the rest of the field with the former world number one winning the last four editions of Wimbledon. Djokovic also spoke about the fact that it takes time to adapt to grass courts and admits there is something about Centre Court that raises his level of play.
“Grass court is the rarest surface we have in the sport, which is contrary to what you had maybe 40, 50, 60 years ago where you played three out of four slams were played on grass. Nowadays that’s not the case. It does take time – more than any other surface – to really get used to it,” Djokovic explained.
“But I think in the probably last 10 years of my career, I’ve adapted very quickly to the surface. I think the results here are a testament to that. Also the fact that I have not played a lead-up tournament to Wimbledon many times. I actually played I think maybe Queen’s, what was it, ’18, Eastbourne in ’17, and that’s it. Before that or after that, I haven’t really played any week on grass before Wimbledon. That’s kind of tricky because you really want to have a couple of matches.
“I normally play Stoke Park or Hurlingham at least one or two matches to try to get that feeling of match play. I don’t know. When I enter the Centre Court, I guess it just awakens something in me and I’m able to perform at a very high level.”
Djokovic will begin his campaign on Monday as he opens up Centre Court against Argentinian Pedro Cachin.
Meanwhile another former champion spoke to the media in the form of Britain’s Andy Murray. The two-time champion is the only player in the draw to have beaten Djokovic at Wimbledon and admitted today that walking out on Centre Court makes him nervous and excited.
“Yeah, when I walk out onto Centre Court to play, obviously I’m very nervous, but incredibly excited to get the chance to perform here again on one of, if not the most special court, in our sport,” Murray said.
“Yeah, I always really look forward to it. I’m feeling already, a couple days out from the tournament, I feel a bit nervous and stuff, which is always a really positive sign to me when I feel that way. Yeah, hopefully that bodes well for the event.
“Depending on draws and situations and everything, like, it’s possible to play poorly and make the quarterfinals. If I was to play Novak in the second round, I lost in five sets or whatever, I can’t say I would walk away from the tournament and be really disappointed if I performed how I still think that I can. That’s what I want to do at this tournament. I want to go out there and perform at a level that I’m happy with. I do feel like I’m in a really, really good position to do that. I have the experience at this tournament.
“Playing on the big courts here more than — there’s only one player in the draw that has more experience of playing here than me, which is Novak. Yeah, I actually don’t know this for sure, but maybe certainly will be one of the only players that’s won against him here, as well. I need to use that to my advantage and use my experience to my advantage and take confidence from that.
“I do believe I’m one of the best grass court players in the world, and I’m physically feeling really good. I prepared well, so there’s no reason why I can’t have a good tournament.”
It’s that self-belief and excitement that ensures that Murray keeps playing as long as possible with there being no end at sight. The former world number one was asked about whether he would announce in advance whether he would retire or not and Murray admitted it’s something he thought about in Australia.
“I mean, I have an idea in my head of when I would like to stop. That’s not definitive. A lot of that is just I think it is good to do that so you can start planning a little bit,” Murray said in his press conference.
“But, yeah, I don’t think I would announce anything, like, way ahead of time because I want to play as long as I can whilst I’m still feeling good physically and competitive. I’m aware, based on how my last sort of five, six years have gone, that things can change very quickly, as well. I’m keeping an open mind to that. Yeah, I do have an idea of when I’d like to stop, yeah. I’m not planning on stopping after I’ve won the tournament here.
“I started to think about it actually during the Australian Open this year, like after the matches I was having, it was like, this maybe isn’t that good for me, like, long-term to be playing those sorts of matches.
“Yeah, I could keep doing that probably, I don’t know, until the hip finishes. I don’t really want to do that. I want to finish on my terms when I’m fit and healthy and still competing at a good level. I would like to finish in that way rather than it being, like, an injury. I know you can’t control that entirely. But, yeah, I do feel like I’ve still got a period of time left where I’m going to be able to, yeah, dedicate the physical work and the training on the court to allow me to still perform at the highest level. But, yeah, that can’t go on forever, unfortunately.”
As for now Murray is still hungry to compete and is not thinking about stopping his career but instead the Brit will have to focus on his opening round match against Ryan Peniston.
The last time Murray played a Brit at Wimbledon, he won the title. However Murray admits he doesn’t believe in omens and is focused on the task ahead.
“I mean, I actually have not played against many Brits at Wimbledon before. I don’t know, maybe that was the last time that happened or maybe the only time. I’m not sure how many Brits I’ve played,” Murray analysed.
“Yeah, Ryan, I know him pretty well. We practiced together quite a lot. He obviously likes playing on the grass courts. He had some really good wins last year at Queen’s and also Jack Draper in Surbiton. I think he beat Holger in Eastbourne. Yeah, he’s had some good wins on the surface. Yeah, lefty. Moves very well. I need to be ready for that one.”
Swiatek adapting to grass court season
On the women’s side world number one Iga Swiatek is attempting to win her first Women’s singles title at Wimbledon having won at Juniors level. The Pole reached the semi-finals in Bad Homburg last week and is now aiming for a second consecutive Grand Slam title after winning in Paris.
Speaking to the press Swiatek spoke about adapting to grass and the technical adjustments that are needed to be successful at Wimbledon.
“Last year I felt a lot of pressure here because I was No.1. I don’t know. I feel like this time — actually, that was the first year where I could just focus on practicing, actually learning a lot,” Swiatek admitted.
“So hopefully I’m going to be able to use that on my matches. For sure getting used to the grass was always a tricky part because when you play well on Roland Garros, then you have less time to prepare for Wimbledon. As I said, yeah, this year I feel like I’ve done a little bit more than for the past years.
“I think mainly I’m focused on footwork because that’s I think where my strength is on other surfaces. For sure sliding is tricky here, so you have to slow down and stop before the shot in a different way.
“But the thing is, last year when I didn’t play any matches before Wimbledon, it was hard to use my intuition because there was pressure. I felt like I’m playing a Grand Slam, and I played so well in Roland Garros that I should play well here as well. But it’s different. Your brain kind of has to kind of feel the ball is bouncing lower. You can’t think about things like that during the match. So I think this year, it’s going to be a little bit easier for me to use my intuition a little bit more.”
Swiatek’s intuition will look to be useful when she takes on Lin Zhu on Monday.
Jabeur looks to inspire as Gauff and Pegula reflect on Venus Williams
Defending finalist Ons Jabeur could have a lot to say about whether Swiatek goes all the way or not as she prepares for her first round match against Magdalena Frech. However Jabeur has continued to speak about how much it means to her to inspire her fellow Tunisians back home as she searches for a maiden Grand Slam title.
“Means a lot. I always talk in my interviews that I want to, like, inspire more and more generations from my country, from my continent,” Jabeur said in her press conference.
“I believe that we have a lot of talented players. It’s a shame not to see them here in Grand Slams, in Wimbledon. I know they dream about it. Hopefully I can share more my experience and maybe give them some advice if they want to be professional tennis players.
“I have a little bit of experience, so maybe it could help them. I believe nothing comes easy. The beauty of things that comes, there is a little bit of struggle in it. That’s how I believe you can enjoy it more.”
Finally, one of the main matches on Monday will see Venus Williams take on Elina Svitolina on Centre Court. At 43 years of age Williams is still continuing to inspire many people around the world as her glittering career edges towards a conclusion in the near future.
Speaking about Williams, Coco Gauffspoke about what’s so inspirational to her about Williams.
“Yeah, for me, Venus, the most inspiring thing about her is the love that she has for tennis. I don’t think that love has swayed over the course of her career,” Gauff explained.
“I think you can see players who are older now. You can have a feeling they probably don’t love it as much as they did when they started it. I don’t have that feeling with Venus. I hope I’m the same way. I don’t think I’ll be playing at 42, I believe. I don’t think I’ll be playing at that age. Maybe. I don’t know. She said the same thing. If I am, I do hope it’s because I just truly love the game. So I think that’s the most inspiring thing about her.
“Obviously just her grit for every match, every ball. I watched a couple of her matches last week. Just the will to want every point is something that’s inspiring. I feel like I have that same hunger. I tried to continue to reach that level of hunger that she has for every point, no matter what tournament it is, Grand Slam or 250. It seems like she’s just fighting for every point. I think that’s the most inspiring things in my eyes of Venus Williams.”
As for Jessica Pegula, the American believes Williams is allowed to retire whenever she wants to as she has earned the right.
“I think she should just do whatever she wants. Clearly that’s what she’s doing now,” Pegula stated.
“She wants to play. I think it’s amazing. It’s incredible that she’s still competing and playing well and winning matches at this age. She’s an icon of our sport. I think for her to still be out there just shows her passion and how much she loves to compete and play. I think it’s amazing.”
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