History not FOMO motivating Djokovic at Wimbledon

Seven-time champion back for 19th successive visit just weeks after knee surgery

Tennis - Wimbledon - All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, London, Britain - June 29, 2024 Serbia's Novak Djokovic during a practice session REUTERS/Matthew Childs

By James Toney at Wimbledon

Novak Djokovic insists he is not the FOMO sort, his only desire is making more history in a sport where he has already earned a top plinth spot in the pantheon of legends.

The Serb tore the medial meniscus in his right knee at the French Open and had surgery three weeks ago but missing Wimbledon - this is a remarkable 19th straight appearance for the seven-time champion - was simply never an option.

Beaten in an epic final 12 months ago by Carlos Alcaraz, he's got little interest in the changing of the guard narrative - at 37, he simply wants his title back.

He took advice from fellow players Taylor Fritz and Stan Wawrinka, who overcame similar injuries, and even skier Lindsey Vonn but he admitted his wife did question why, after all he's achieved, he was taking the risk so close to the Olympics in Paris

However, a week of practice later and he looks sharp, with no signs of problems during a full intensity session at the All England Club on Saturday.

"It's probably less of a rational and logical explanation, but more that inner feeling and sensation of really great desire to play," he said.

"I was very much in doubt of making Wimbledon but the conversations I had with those who have been through it gave me faith and optimism that perhaps I could if everything went right with surgery and rehab.

"I wouldn't call it a fear of missing out, I would just say it's this incredible desire to play, just to compete, particularly because it is Wimbledon.

"This was always the dream tournament for me when I was a kid. The thought of missing it was just not correct, I didn't want to deal with that.

"I'm going through this particular knee injury for the first time in my life, I wanted to see how fast can I really recover, and can be in a condition to compete best-of-five on grass with best players in the world."

Vit Kopriva is Djokovic's first round opponent on Tuesday, perhaps the only advantage of his defeat 12 months ago meaning he's not opening the show on Centre Court on Monday - the extra 24 hours preparation much welcomed.

Instead Alcaraz will get things going against Estonia's Mark Lajal, his first match since losing to Britain's Jack Draper at Queen's Club earlier this month.

Winning at Roland Garros on clay and then transitioning for success on grass at Wimbledon is no easy feat, the two surfaces polar opposites for players.

Through the recent golden generation, Rafael Nadal did it twice and Djokovic and Roger Federer only once. Before them, you need to go back to Bjorn Borg in 1980.

"Winning Grand Slams is difficult. Obviously changing from clay to a grass court, totally different surfaces, totally different game of play, it's very hard," said Alcaraz.

"I want to put my name on that short list to win Roland Garros and Wimbledon in the same year. I know that there's going to be a really difficult and big challenging for me, but I think I'm ready to do it.

"I've been doing great work these last few weeks just to get ready. I've been watching a lot of videos - of Roger, Novak, Rafa and Andy Murray too, just learning how they play on this surface.

“I've watched a few of myself from last year too, just to remind myself of what I did or how I did it. It's great to be back again and more special be the defending champion."

Jannik Sinner might be the world's number one but remains happy to fly a little under the radar - the observers on his practice court not near the levels of Djokovic and Alcaraz.

But his recent win at the Halle Open underlined he has the game for the surface, following last year's career best run to the semi-finals.

"I've got good confidence on grass, when perhaps I didn't in the past," he said.

"I know I can play also some good tennis on this surface but being top seed doesn't add any pressure or expectation, that's on others. I've never won here, Novak has many times and Carlos is the defending champion."

For the latest action on the British summer grass court season, check out the LTA website