Novak Djokovic aims to match Wimbledon title haul of childhood hero Pete Sampras

Serbian eyes seventh crown at All England Club, while home hero Murray talks about reuniting with coach Lendl

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Top seed Novak Djokovic believes he is in good shape to match the Wimbledon title haul of his childhood hero Pete Sampras.

Defending champion Djokovic is first up on Centre Court on Monday when he takes on Korean world No 75 Soonwoo Kwon.

The Serb has won the title six times at SW19 and goes into this year's tournament on the back of a 21-match winning streak at the grass-court Grand Slam.

His last defeat came in 2017 when he retired injured from his quarter-final match against Czech Tomas Berdych.

Djokovic is aiming to become only the fourth man in the Open era – after Bjorn Bjorg, Sampras and Roger Federer – to win four successive singles trophies at Wimbledon.

“Pete Sampras, winning his first Wimbledon, was the first tennis match I ever saw on the TV,” the world No 2 said. “Pete has won it seven times, if I'm not mistaken. Hopefully, yeah, I can do the same this year.”

Djokovic will be playing his first match in more than three weeks and it will be his first competitive outing since losing to eventual winner Rafael Nadal in the French Open quarter-finals.

But the 35-year-old is pleased with how his preparation has been going. "So far so good,” said the 20-time Grand Slam winner.

“I didn't have any lead-up tournaments to Wimbledon, but I've had success in Wimbledon in the past without having any official matches and tournaments. I just had one exhibition match a few days ago in Hurlingham.

“Over the years, as I said, I had success with adapting quickly to the surface, so there is no reason not to believe that I can do it again.”

However his Wimbledon campaign goes, it looks as though Djokovic will not get the opportunity to win a fourth US Open title when this season's final Slam starts at the end of August.

Having been prevented from playing in the Australian Open due to his refusal to have a Covid-19 vaccine, Djokovic was free to play in France and this week in the UK.

But as things stand, people need to be vaccinated against coronavirus to enter the United States.

“As of today I am not allowed to enter the States under these circumstances,” Djokovic said. “I am aware of that and that is an extra motivation to do well here, and hopefully I can have a very good tournament as I have done in the last three editions.

“Then I will just have to wait and see. I would love to go to the States. But as of today that is not possible.

“There is not much I can do any more. It is up to the US government to make a decision whether or not they allow the unvaccinated people to go in to the country.”

Meanwhile, two-time winner and home hero Andy Murray has revealed that a number of coaches turned down the opportunity to work with him before he reunited for a third spell with Ivan Lendl.

The Scot, currently ranked 51st the world, is due to face Australia's James Duckworth in the first round on Monday.

But the former world No 1 has been struggling with an abdominal strain picked up in his Stuttgart Open final defeat against Matteo Berrettini a two weeks ago.

Having Lendl back in his corner, though, has clearly given Murray a boost.

All of Murray's major wins – two Wimbledon crowns, a US Open title and two Olympic gold medals – came when he was in partnership with Lendl.

“Obviously having Ivan in my team helps,” said Murray.

“We've had a lot of success in the past, we know each other well and he still believes in me. There's not loads of coaches and people out there that have done over this last period, but he has.

“For the most part in my career, when I had conversations with potential coaches it came off most of the time.

“Whereas this time round, I got turned down by a lot of coaches so that was obviously difficult to deal with.

“I don't know how many you'd say were really top level, who would be able to help you win the major events.

“So that's also why I'm grateful Ivan has come back to work with me and help me try to achieve what I want to achieve.”

Updated: June 26, 2022, 3:49 PM
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