Novak Djokovic makes worrying injury confession as his flaws are exposed at Wimbledon

Kevin Palmer
Novak Djokovic is wearing a knee brace at the 2024 Wimbledon Championships
Novak Djokovic is wearing a knee brace at the 2024 Wimbledon Championships

Novak Djokovic made some worrying confessions as he was pushed all the way by British younger Jacob Fearnley on Wimbledon’s Centre Court.

Fearnley produced an excellent display to take a set off Djokovic in a high-quality second-round defeat to the seven-time Wimbledon champion, but it was hard to ignore the lack of dynamism on Djokovic’s movement as he ground out a 6-3 6-4 5-7 7-5 win.

Djokovic tends to be guarded about injury issues, but he made some telling confessions is an intriguingly candid press conference.

“I do feel that has an impact on my movement a little bit in terms of the speed,” he said when asked about his knee injury.

“It’s not yet there where I want it to be. Kind of late on the balls that I’m normally not late on.

“That’s the part which I guess comes with matches. So the longer I stay in the tournament, I think the better the chances that my movement will improve.

“The earlier rounds is where I’m still a little bit rusty on the movement, I think. That’s what I felt today, at least.

“But yeah, I don’t worry about reinjuring my knee. I don’t have time nor energy to think about it, nor do I think it’s worth it.

“I wouldn’t be here unless I think that – not just myself, but the whole team – that I’m ready to compete at this level.”

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When asked if there was a solution to his movement issues mid-way through a Grand Slam, Djokovic conceded he just had to hope for improvement as he plays more matches.

“As the tournament progresses, as I said, the more matches I have, the better the chance I’ll have to feel more comfortable,” he added.

“Moving around and gaining that speed, agility, change of direction, that freedom that I’m looking for, really.

“I had it in certain moments today, certain moments in the first match, but then it’s still not there. In a way, it’s expected and normal when you come back from surgery, the body’s trying to understand what’s going on.

“Very early after surgery, already competing at the highest level on a surface that is, again, slippery. Kind of have to be careful with the way you move at times.

“But I’ll take this any day of the week, comparing to the pain that thankfully I’m not feeling. I’m not feeling the pain, but I’m struggling a little bit with movement.

“That’s fine. That’s something that is workable. I can work on it on a daily basis, but it’s going to have the biggest effect on matches.

“The more matches, the more of those type of situations I have, the better I will play and move.”

Djokovic will be a threat for as long as he is in the draw at Wimbledon and will always have his backers – see here for odds – but it is clear that he has doubts over what comes next as he looks to equal Roger Federer’s record of eight Wimbledon singles titles.

On the evidence of what we saw from Djokovic against the impressive Fearnley, the prospect of him standing on Centre Court with that famous gold trophy over his head once again a week on Sunday seems highly unlikely.

Yet only a fool would write off the greatest champion of them all.