Novak Djokovic has Roger Federer’s record of eight Wimbledon titles as well as a 24th major in his sights as he closes in on a first calendar Grand Slam in 54 years.
Fresh from breaking out of a tie with Rafael Nadal for 23 Slams at the French Open, the 36-year-old Djokovic will comfortably be the overwhelming favourite at the All England Club when he starts his title defence on Monday.
With a 10th Australian Open and third Roland Garros already wrapped up this season, an eighth Wimbledon triumph would leave Djokovic needing just the US Open in September to emulate Rod Laver’s sweep of all four majors in 1969.
“He takes your legs, then he takes your soul, then he digs your grave and you have a funeral and you’re dead. Bye-bye. Thank you for coming,” said coach Goran Ivanisevic when asked to caption the Serb’s Grand Slam mindset.
Djokovic has won the title on his last four visits to Wimbledon and has not lost on Centre Court since the 2013 final.
“When I enter Centre Court, it just awakens something in me and I’m able to perform at a very high level,” said Djokovic who opens his campaign on Monday against 67th-ranked clay-court lover Pedro Cachin.
“Grass courts are 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.
“It does take time – more than any other surface – to really get used to it. But I think in the past 10 years of my career, I’ve adapted very quickly. I think the results here are a testament to that.”
Djokovic’s 86 match wins at Wimbledon are only bettered by the now retired Federer and are more than the rest of the current top 20 put together.
Of those players, only two — Cameron Norrie and Hubert Hurkacz — have made the semi-finals of Wimbledon.
Among his top five rivals, not one has got beyond the last 16. Two-time champion Nadal is sitting out the rest of the year through injury.
A 24th major for Djokovic would take him level with Margaret Court for the most Grand Slam titles won by one player.
World number one Carlos Alcaraz will be Djokovic’s biggest threat, especially as the young Spaniard now has a maiden grass-court title in his collection after his win at Queen’s last weekend.
However, Alcaraz conceded key ground by admitting that the stress and tension of facing Djokovic in the semi-final at the French Open caused cramping that sparked his defeat.
– ‘Like a Ninja’ –
Ivanisevic described Djokovic as “unbelievable”.
“He’s still moving like a cat on the court. He’s there. Like a Ninja, he’s everywhere. He’s going to find some kind of motivation to win 24, maybe 25, who knows where is the end.”
Not surprisingly, Alcaraz has attempted to shift all the focus onto Djokovic.
“I saw that Djokovic has never lost a match on Centre Court since 2013 when he lost against Andy Murray — so it’s 10 years. It’s crazy,” said Alcaraz who made the last 16 in 2022.
“But I hope to have the crowd behind me to change that stat.”
Moscow-born Elena Rybakina was the shock women’s champion in 2022.