July 22, 2024
Novak Djokovic

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 10: Novak Djokovic of Serbia poses for a photo with the trophy following his ... [+]GETTY IMAGES

Novak Djokovic is officially in the Wimbledon draw and he ramped up his preparation for the grass court Slam with a “pain-free” exhibition win Friday over a Top-5 player.

Just over three weeks removed from right meniscus surgery, the 37-year-old Serb beat No. 5 Daniil Medvedev, 6-3, 6-4, in the Giorgio Armani Tennis Classic at the Hurlingham Club in London.

Wearing a light brace on his right knee, Djokovic won the first set 6-3 after breaking Medvedev early with an unstoppable forehand down the line to win the game. He took the second set 6-4 with the match point being a glorious back hand volley that landed inches over the net.

“I can tell you that I enjoyed myself really, really much today,” Djokovic told host Jenny Drummond. “Thank you all for coming out, for supporting tennis and this event. I can tell you that pain free tennis is the best tennis.

“I was pain free and it was a great test yesterday as well, playing against the best players in the World… I really wanted to come out and test my knee and see how I feel, move around you know, try to stay low, you know the ball bounces very low on grass, especially here and the test was very successful so I’m obviously really glad.

Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic beat Daniil Medvedev Friday in the Giorgio Armani Tennis Classic in London.GIORGIO ARMANI TENNIS CLASSIC

Thanking his surgeon and knee specialist he said, “Without them this whole thing today wouldn’t have been possible and I wouldn’t be playing Wimbledon, so I’m trying to take it day by day and see how far it goes.”

As for Wimbledon, Djokovic is scheduled to begin on Tuesday against qualifier Vit Kopriva of the Czech Republic.

Meantime, two-time Wimbledon champion Andy Murray plans to wait until the deadline to decide if he will play singles, though he could play doubles with his brother Jamie.

“Maybe it’s my ego getting in the way, but I feel that I deserve the opportunity to give it until the very last moment to make that decision,” said the 37-year-old Murray, who plans to retire in the coming months. “It’s complicated, and it’s made more complicated because I want to play at Wimbledon one more time … so I’m going to give it as long as I can to see how well I recover.”

Play at the All England Club begins Monday.

“It has been mentioned to me: ‘Are you going to withdraw before the draw at 10 a.m. on Friday?’ And I’m like, ‘Well, no, I’m not. I’m going to wait until the last minute. This is not clear-cut, where I am 100% going to be ready to play or there is a 0% chance that I can play. That is the situation. I would say it’s probably more likely that I’m not able to play singles right now.”

The men’s quarterfinals could be No. 1 seed Jannik Sinner vs. No. 5 Medvedev, and defending champion Carlos Alcaraz vs. No. 8 Casper Ruud on the top half of the bracket, with No. 2 Djokovic vs. No. 7 Hubert Hurkacz, and No. 4 Alexander Zverev vs. No. 6 Andrey Rublev on the bottom half.

That sets up a possible semifinal between Sinner, who is 22, and Alcaraz, 21. They are already developing quite a rivalry; Alcaraz beat Sinner in the semifinals at the French Open this month en route to the title there.

Top-seeded Iga Swiatek has never been past the quarterfinals at the All England Club and was given a path that could be filled with past Grand Slam champions.

Her opening opponent will be 2020 Australian Open winner Sofia Kenin, who eliminated Coco Gauff in the first round at Wimbledon a year ago — less than three months before Gauff would go on to win the U.S. Open. Swiatek could face 2018 Wimbledon champ Angelique Kerber in the third round, 2017 French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko in the fourth, and defending Wimbledon champion Marketa Vondrousova in the quarterfinals. Ostapenko is 4-0 against Swiatek over their careers.

The other potential women’s quarterfinals are 2022 winner Elena Rybakina vs. No. 5 seed Jessica Pegula on the top half of the bracket with Swiatek-Vondrousova, and No. 2 Gauff vs. No. 7 Jasmine Paolini, and No. 3 Aryna Sabalenka vs. No. 8 Zheng Qinwen on the bottom half.

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