''I See Myself In His Game'' - Djokovic Looks Ahead To Tough QF Test Against Sinner

Djokovic's biggest test yet awaits in the form of young Italian sensation Jannik Sinner
11:05, 04 Jul 2022

The red-hot title favourite Novak Djokovic has made fairly serene progress into this year’s Wimbledon quarter-finals – but is fully aware that his biggest test yet awaits in the form of young Italian sensation Jannik Sinner if he is to win a seventh singles title on the grass at SW19. 

Serbia’s Djokovic, 35, saw wildcard Tim van Rijthoven take a set off him as the Dutchman battled bravely on Centre Court under the roof and the lights late on Sunday – but in truth, as with his other three matches, there was never any doubt about the eventual outcome…rather just how long it would take. 

Earlier in the day in the tie of the last 16 round the 20-year-old Sinner produced a magnificent display to beat Spain’s No5 seed Carlos Alcaraz 6-1, 6-4, 6-7, 6-3 on Centre in a high-class match to lift the spirits of all those dreading the day when Roger Federer, Rafa Nadal and Djokovic call it a day. The 19-year-old Alcaraz and Sinner are a huge part of the future of men’s tennis, and this is an embryonic rivalry that is going nowhere for 10 years or more.

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There is plenty on the line for Djokovic at this year’s Wimbledon. At one time last year it looked inevitable that he would be the player setting a target for the most grand slam singles titles in history. Instead with the chaos of Australia where he ended up being deported having refused to have a Covid vaccine, an early exit in Paris, and a 2022 surge from Nadal, he finds himself two off the pace on 20 and the prospect of being denied entry to American for the US Open. 

So bluntly he could really do with winning this one if that goal is a serious target – but Sinner, the underdog against Alcaraz but who adapted far better to the grass, will be his most formidable opponent yet by a distance.

Jannik Sinner
Jannik Sinner

Djokovic said: “I have only superlatives and positive things to talk about Jannik Sinner's game. We all know he's very talented and he's already now an established top player. I've seen him play many different surfaces in the last few years, and he's maturing a lot on the big stage. I think he doesn't feel too much pressure on the big stage because that can get you sometimes when you're younger. 

“He's very confident. He believes he can win against anybody, any stadium, which is important for a young player like him. He's already now experienced, even though he's still young, because he has had big matches, top-10 player. 

“I saw him play against Carlos Alcaraz, it was a dominant performance from him in the first two sets. After that, it was a close one, it was a fight. But he was always somehow in control of the match. He's very solid. Every shot, he has every shot in his game: serve, return, forehand, backhand. He's constantly putting pressure on opponents. 

“I kind of see a little bit of myself in his game, as well, from back of the court, playing flat backhand, constantly staying on the back of the line, trying to put pressure on opponents. I know it is going to be a very challenging match for both of us. He's playing fast. He likes that rhythm. We practised here a couple of times. I know what's expecting me. I'll make sure I'm ready for it.” 

Yet another late finish on Centre -  something that has also happened on Court One even without rain - requiring the roof and the lights has led to calls to start play earlier so whoever is on last is almost guaranteed to be playing an ‘indoor tournament’. 

Djokovic added: “I hear there are some talks about maybe moving the beginning of the matches, the first matches on the big courts, especially Centre Court, a bit earlier. 

“I don't see a reason why there wouldn't be an earlier start, to be honest, particularly now that there are on-court interviews that we didn't have up to a few years ago. Also the time between the matches, you almost certainly, if you're scheduled last on the Centre, you're going to end up a match under the roof, which changes the conditions, the style of play, the way you move on the court. It's more slippery…the lights. 

“It's really an indoor tournament in most of the cases when you're scheduled last on Centre or Court One for that matter - as we saw  with Tsitsipas and Kyrgios ending up the match quite late. Most of the players would probably agree that we would all want the start of the match on Centre Court pushed earlier.” 

Sinner was delighted to have put down a big marker against Alcaraz – and on Djokovic said: “It's going to be a tough match, of course. I mean, he's playing very, very good. I will try my best. That's the minimum I can do. I’ll just enjoy every moment out there.” 

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