Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray keep world guessing over Wimbledon participation

Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray
Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray (PC: X)

Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray have kept the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club (AELTC) guessing as the two consummate artists are yet to take a final call on their participation at The Championships in Wimbledon, beginning July 1.

Djokovic has caught the imagination of one and all after undergoing surgery on his right knee for a meniscus tear, after he had to withdraw from the French Open. The winner of 24 Grand Slam titles had slammed the organisers for bad scheduling and making him play on slipper clay courts. Yet, what has been sensational to see on his social media handles is, he has not just resumed rehab and strengthening, he is actually back to hitting tennis balls on the court.

The movement on court, front and back and lateral runs, in short bursts, gives an impression, under his team of rehab and strength specialists, he is ready to regain full fitness as soon as possible. In the normal course, returning to a tennis court may have taken longer but Djokovic is fast-tracking his return. News emanating from the tennis circles in the last two days suggests Djokovic will travel to London and will keep his options open on whether or not to play in singles at Wimbledon.

From the organisers’ point of view, Djokovic competing in Wimbledon is of huge value, tennis-wise and also in terms of the sponsorship angle. As it were, Wimbledon has seen a massive increase in prize money with the total purse on offer pegged at £50,000,000. The men’s singles winner will get £2,7000,0000. If Djokovic decides to play, as speculated, it will not be just for the money. He has very bad memories from last year’s final where he lost to Carlos Alcaraz.

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Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic (PC: Roland Garros/X)

It is also of significance, Djokovic is known for his supreme fitness, having put in enormous hours in practice and training seasons. Away from tennis, his sponsor, Asics, has already launched an all-white Djokovic-series tennis shoe for Wimbledon. It may be just a marketing gimmick, since, even at the Tokyo Olympics, the Novak Asics series shoes in a fluorescent colour sold like hot cakes.

Sport is all about marketing and how the commercial deals come through for the organisers as well the athletes. Just that, with Djokovic, there is so much riding on him, he may be tempted to give it a shot at Wimbledon, subject to medical advice. When Pete Sampras won his last title at Wimbledon against Pat Rafter in 2000, a match which stretched till 856PM London time, the American was far from fully fit. He had used all kinds of treatment to play his seven matches. With rain delays giving him more time to recover, Pistol Pete had used Chinese traditional methods as well to heal his foot. Back then, it was said, if Sampras could stand on one leg, he would outhit his rival with the first and second serves.

Yes, Wimbledon’s playing surface has slowed down, and Djokovic may think he could take a chance. News of him not yet pulling out is increasing suspense.

At the same time, Murray, on his last lap in his tennis career, is also not ruling out playing at Wimbledon. He underwent a minor surgery recently for a cyst removal in his spine. By all reports coming in, Murray will do anything it takes to play at Wimbledon as this is his last year. He has been named in the team for the Paris Olympics by Team GB.

Murray competing at Wimbledon is, again, a long shot. But like Djokovic, he will keep the organisers guessing till the last date before the draw is made later this week. So, what is that makes these two very special players do crazy stuff like trying to get ready before they are fit. That’s passion, even if it seems madness. Murray, for the record, is 37. His emotional connect with Wimbledon and Paris 2024 has been talked of many times.

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