The five men who got Novak Djokovic from surgery to Wimbledon in under a month

The 37-year-old admitted he was ‘very much in doubt’ of making Wimbledon after damaging his meniscus at the French Open

WIMBLEDON — Novak Djokovic says he has been told it’s “not ideal” that he is back playing tennis three weeks after knee surgery, but that he is confident in the strength of the joint ahead of his Wimbledon campaign.

Djokovic damaged the meniscus in his right knee during a fourth-round win over Francisco Cerundolo at the French Open on 3 June, pulling out 24 hours later.

The Serb subsequently had surgery in Paris and began a race against time to be fit for Wimbledon, where he is trying to equal Roger Federer’s eight titles.

The 37-year-old confirmed his fitness with victory over Daniil Medvedev 6-3, 6-4 on Friday, played as part of an exhibition event at the Hurlingham Club but very much in a competitive spirit.

“The knee has responded very well,” Djokovic said.

“I’m confident about the health of my knee and just general physical state is really good.

“Obviously once the tournament starts, I’ll have more sensations and more feedback from how knee reacts to a best-of-five grand slam match.”

Djokovic also revealed he had made the decision to try and play Wimbledon early on, having researched the fate of other players who had suffered similar injuries.

“I made a very quick decision to make surgery, [then] I was very much in doubt of making Wimbledon,” Djokovic added.

“Then after extensive conversations with certain athletes that have been through very similar situations, for example, Taylor Fritz who has been through something pretty much the same like I have three years ago. I think he injured himself also in Roland Garros. He said 21 days after he played his first round in Wimbledon.

“[Stan] Wawrinka, [ski racer] Lindsey Vonn, they all shared their experiences. Really, that gave me faith and optimism that if rehab is done right and correct, and if of course the knee responds well, which is something that is very unpredictable, then there is a pretty good chance that I’ll make Wimbledon.”

Tennis - Wimbledon - All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, London, Britain - June 29, 2024 Serbia's Novak Djokovic during a practice session REUTERS/Matthew Childs
Djokovic has been hitting at Wimbledon all week with a sleeve on his knee (Photo: Reuters)

Djokovic paid tribute to his surgeon Antoana Geromete, who performed the surgery in Paris. Geromete revealed in an interview soon after the procedure that it would be “difficult” to achieve 100 per cent fitness in just three weeks.

“He’s a real force of nature because given the nature of the injury, what he’s done is extraordinary,” Geromete told L’Equipe.

Djokovic returned the compliment when he finally returned to competitive action in London at Hurlingham.

“He’s the MVP for sure the last three weeks,” said Djokovic with Geromete in the crowd.

“I’m trying to take it day by day and see how far it goes.”

Geromete did not do it alone though. After surgery on 5 June, Djokovic posted a picture with his wife and closest associates, the men who would be charged with getting him ready for Wimbledon.

Carlos Gomez Herrera, better known as Charly, is a long-time hitting partner of Djokovic’s who has taken on a greater role on the tennis side of things since the departure of head coach Goran Ivanisevic in March.

Mark Madden is his business advisor who caddied for Djokovic at the Ryder Cup in Italy, but since the departure of the Serb’s media managers at the end of 2023, his influence has grown.

Physical conditioning and recovery though has been handled by Miljan Amanovic, a longtime physio who is back in Djokovic’s inner circle, and Gebhard Gritsch, an Austrian fitness consultant who provides “high performance sports planning and training expertise”.

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