After a turbulent start to the 2022 season, Novak Djokovic is just one victory away from claiming his first, and perhaps only, major title of the year at Wimbledon.
With his status for the US Open still in doubt due to pandemic-related restrictions for entry into the United States and having had a disappointing result — by his standards anyway — at the French Open with a loss in the quarterfinals, the success of Djokovic’s season might very well hinge upon how he fares in the final after his 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 victory over Cameron Norrie in the semifinals on Friday.
For much of the early part of the year, it was uncertain how much he would be able to play due to his very public unvaccinated status. Djokovic, 35, arrived at the Australian Open in January and quickly found himself at the center of a global media storm and legal battle. Ultimately, his visa was revoked by the Australian government and he was deported before play got underway. He then watched as the Grand Slam title record was broken by Rafael Nadal in Melbourne, and in February, he was temporarily supplanted atop the rankings by Daniil Medvedev.
Prior to April, Djokovic had played in just one tournament (a quarterfinal run in Dubai). But he was able to play in four tournaments during the European clay-court swing leading into the French Open, and won his first title of the year in Rome. Because he was ultimately unable to defend his title in Paris, he fell again in the rankings — this time to No. 3. Djokovic opted to skip the grass events leading into Wimbledon, but has been in mostly prime form throughout his time at the All England Club thus far.
No matter what happens on Sunday in the final against Nick Kyrgios, Djokovic will drop to No. 7 in the rankings following Wimbledon due to the ATP not awarding points to the tournament as a result of the ban of Russian and Belarusian players. But that ranking slide would undoubtedly be easier for Djokovic to accept were he to win his fourth straight Wimbledon title and 21st major trophy.
So how exactly did we get here? Here is a refresher on everything that has led up to the present situation for Djokovic.
July 8, 2022: Djokovic gets back to the Wimbledon final
July 8, 2022: Djokovic gets back to the Wimbledon final After a flat start in which he dropped the first set to Norrie, the local favorite who very much had the crowd on his side, Djokovic found his level – and dominated the rest of the way. He will now play in his 32nd major final – the most ever by a male player and tied for third-most all-time, matching Martina Navratilova and trailing only Chris Evert (34) and Serena Williams (33).
Djokovic seemed happy about the achievement, but didn’t hesitate to make at least one prediction about the upcoming clash with Kyrgios while on the court on Friday.
“One thing is for sure, there are going to be a lot of fireworks emotionally from both of us,” Djokovic said.
One step away from a fourth consecutive Wimbledon title.@DjokerNole defeats Cameron Norrie 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 to reach his eighth final at The Championships#Wimbledon | #CentreCourt100 pic.twitter.com/wVXnsfKrIN
— Wimbledon (@Wimbledon) July 8, 2022
July 5, 2022: Djokovic advances to semifinal at All England Club
Djokovic lost the first two sets to Jannik Sinner in his Wimbledon quarterfinal match, before finding a way to rally for the 5-7, 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 victory on Centre Court.
“I always believed that I could turn the match around,” Djokovic said at its conclusion. The win clinched his 11th semifinal berth at the All England Club and set up the clash with Norrie.
This is how champions play 💫
Over to you, @DjokerNole… #Wimbledon | #CentreCourt100 pic.twitter.com/fn5KXfpxUo
— Wimbledon (@Wimbledon) July 5, 2022
May 31, 2022: Djokovic falls to Nadal at Roland Garros
After having not dropped a set en route to the quarterfinals at the French Open, Djokovic fell short in a late-night clash that lasted over four hours with Nadal. It was a revenge match from 2021 in which Djokovic defeated Nadal at the tournament in the semifinals and went on to win the Roland Garros title. “To win against Novak, there is only one way,” Nadal said after the match. “It’s to play at your best since the first point ’til the last, no? Tonight has been one of these magic nights for me. Unexpected level.”
Nadal ultimately hoisted the trophy for his 22nd major title, extending his lead over Djokovic and Federer, who remain at 20. Djokovic’s ranking fell to No. 3 at the end of the tournament, behind Medvedev and Alexander Zverev.
May 15, 2022: Djokovic wins his first title of 2022 at the Italian Open
Djokovic proved he had rediscovered his form on clay with a dominant performance in Rome, defeating top-10 players Casper Ruud and Felix Auger-Aliassime on his way to the final. He held off then-No. 5 Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-0, 7-6 (5) in a rematch of the 2021 French Open title match.
Djokovic. Is. BACK 🙌@DjokerNole | @InteBNLdItalia | #IBI22 pic.twitter.com/HSSHQ4gh4l
— ATP Tour (@atptour) May 15, 2022
Djokovic didn’t drop a set throughout the week. He later told reporters he was happy about his clay preparation leading into the year’s second major.
“I could not ask for a better lead-up to Roland Garros really,” Djokovic said. “Serbian Open finals, really working my way through the tournament physically. Then Madrid, better performances, but still maybe not as sharp in those decisive moments. And here everything kind of came together and clicked.
“I’m going to Paris with definitely confidence and good feelings about my chances there.”
His semifinal victory over Ruud marked his 1,000th career victory on tour.
April 24, 2022: Djokovic reaches his first final of the year
Playing in front of an adoring crowd in his hometown of Belgrade at the Serbia Open, Djokovic advanced to his first final since the Paris Masters in November. Djokovic lost the opening set in all three of his victories en route to the title match. He did that again in the final but, despite forcing a decider and having the distinct home-court advantage, Djokovic appeared to have nothing left in the final set and lost to Andrey Rublev, 6-2, 6-7 (4), 6-0.
April 12, 2022: Djokovic makes his return to competition
Playing in his first tournament since Dubai in February and in just his second event of the year, Djokovic lost in three sets in his opener at Monte Carlo to Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, then-ranked No. 46 in the world. Djokovic later told reporters he “ran out of gas completely” by the third set.
“I was just physically, completely — I collapsed. You know, I couldn’t move anymore. … Obviously disappointing to lose a match and to feel this way on the court.
“But again, I’m not gonna stop here. I’m going to keep going and hopefully build my form for Roland Garros. You know, that’s the big goal of the clay season.”
March 21, 2022: Djokovic reclaims the No. 1 ranking
Despite not being able to play at Indian Wells, Djokovic took back the world’s top ranking following Medvedev’s third-round loss to Gael Monfils at the tournament.
Medvedev’s reign atop the rankings lasted just three weeks. “Is it better to be No. 1 for let’s say one week in your life or never touch it? You know, I think it’s still better to at least touch it,” Medvedev said after the loss to Monfils.
March 9, 2022: Djokovic announces he is out of BNP Paribas Open and Miami Open
Djokovic tweeted that he would not be playing in Indian Wells or in Miami due to the vaccine regulations in place required for entrance to the United States:
While I was automatically listed in the @BNPPARIBASOPEN and @MiamiOpen draw I knew it would be unlikely I’d be able to travel. The CDC has confirmed that regulations won’t be changing so I won’t be able to play in the US. Good luck to those playing in these great tournaments 👊
— Novak Djokovic (@DjokerNole) March 9, 2022
Both tournaments released statements following Djokovic’s announcement. “We understood from the beginning that Novak’s participation at the Miami Open was determinant on his entry into the United States, which we knew would be a long shot,” said James Blake, tournament director of the Miami Open.
March 1, 2022: Djokovic reveals he is no longer working with longtime coach
In a post on his website, Djokovic announced he and Marian Vajda had “agreed to end their partnership” after 15 years and 20 major titles together. Djokovic said the decision was made after the 2021 ATP Finals in November.
“Marian has been by my side during the most important and memorable moments in my career,” Djokovic said in the statement. “Together we have achieved some incredible things and I am very grateful for his friendship and dedication over the last 15 years. While he might be leaving the professional team he will always be family and I can’t thank him enough for all he has done.”
Djokovic later shared a similar message on his Instagram account.
Feb 28, 2022: Djokovic falls to No. 2 in ATP rankings
Djokovic was replaced by Daniil Medvedev after his quarterfinal loss in the Dubai Championships. His latest stay in the top spot began on Feb. 3, 2020, and Djokovic’s total of 361 weeks there are the most for any man since the tour’s computerized rankings began in 1973.
Feb. 21, 2022: Djokovic wins his first match of the year
Djokovic defeated Lorenzo Musetti 6-3, 6-3 to open the Dubai Championships. “I have to be satisfied with my tennis, especially after not playing for two and a half, three months,” Djokovic said on court. “Of course, there were moments when I played great, there were moments when I made a couple of unforced errors in a row uncharacteristically. But it’s normal to expect that [in my] first match after a while.”
Three days later, he loses 6-4, 7-6 (4) to Czech qualifier Jiri Vesely in the quarterfinals.
Feb 15, 2022: Djokovic says he will opt out of future Grand Slams with vaccine mandates
In his first interview after being deported from Australia, Djokovic reiterated his stance on not getting vaccinated against COVID-19 and said he would opt out of playing in future majors that would require him getting inoculated. “Yes, that is the price that I’m willing to pay,” he told the BBC.
Jan. 16, 2022: Djokovic loses appeal, out of Australian Open
Three Federal Court judges upheld a decision made earlier by the immigration minister to cancel the 34-year-old Serb’s visa on public interest grounds.
Jan. 6, 2022: Djokovic denied entry into Australia; visa canceled
After being detained for about eight hours at the airport upon arrival, the 20-time major winner is denied entry to the country and his visa is canceled. The Australian Border Force says Djokovic failed to meet entry requirements. Health Minister Greg Hunt says the visa cancellation followed a review of Djokovic’s medical exemption — which was expected to shield him from the strict COVID-19 vaccination regulations in place — by border officials who looked “at the integrity and the evidence behind it.”
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison tweets: “Rules are rules, especially when it comes to our borders.”
Mr Djokovic’s visa has been cancelled. Rules are rules, especially when it comes to our borders. No one is above these rules. Our strong border policies have been critical to Australia having one of the lowest death rates in the world from COVID, we are continuing to be vigilant.
— Scott Morrison (@ScottMorrisonMP) January 5, 2022
The tennis star is brought to a hotel used to house immigration detainees in Carlton, an inner-northern suburb of Melbourne, where he remains for four nights. Fans gather in protest outside the hotel.
Djokovic’s wife, Jelena, takes to Twitter to share her thoughts on the situation.
Thank you dear people, all around the world for using your voice to send love to my husband. I am taking a deep breath to calm down and find gratitude (and understanding) in this moment for all that is happening. 🙏
— Jelena Djokovic (@jelenadjokovic) January 7, 2022
Jan. 4, 2022: Djokovic announces he is heading Down Under with medical exemption
Djokovic reveals he will compete at the tennis season’s opening Grand Slam event after receiving a medical exemption from getting vaccinated against COVID-19. He posts a photo of himself at an airport on Instagram with a caption that reads, in part: “I’m heading Down Under with an exemption permission.” Tennis Australia follows with a statement confirming Djokovic is on his way to the country with a medical exemption that has been “granted following a rigorous review process involving two separate independent panels of medical experts.”
Neither Djokovic nor Tennis Australia reveals the basis for his exemption. Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley says a “handful” of exemptions had been granted out of 26 applications from players or others.
Dec. 29, 2021: Djokovic pulls out of ATP Cup
Days before the competition is due to begin in Sydney, Djokovic withdraws from Serbia’s team for the ATP Cup. No reason is given.
“Novak Djokovic has officially withdrawn from the ATP Cup in Sydney, we have no update as yet on his plans for the Australian Open,” a Tennis Australia spokeswoman said in an emailed statement.
Dec. 22, 2021: Djokovic tests negative
According to court documents, Djokovic tests negative for COVID-19 in Serbia.
Dec. 18, 2021: Djokovic does interview and photo shoot for L’Equipe
Knowing he tested positive, Djokovic does an interview and photo shoot with the French newspaper L’Equipe. He acknowledges weeks later: “On reflection, this was an error of judgment.”
Dec. 17, 2021: Djokovic attends Belgrade event
The nine-time Australian Open champion attends an event in Belgrade, Serbia, honoring youth tennis players. Parents post photos on social media showing Djokovic and the young players without masks. Djokovic later says he was asymptomatic, had taken an antigen test before the event that showed he was negative, and only received a positive PCR result after the event.
Dec. 16, 2021: Djokovic tests positive
Djokovic tests positive for COVID-19 in Serbia, although that is not public knowledge until it is revealed by court documents in January. He later says he did not know the result until Dec. 17.
Dec. 14, 2021: Djokovic attends a basketball game
The tennis star takes in a professional basketball game in Belgrade, Serbia. He is photographed hugging several players from both teams, including some who later tested positive for COVID-19.
June 2020: The Adria Tour is called off, Djokovic contracts COVID-19
Djokovic announces that he and his wife, Jelena, have tested positive for COVID-19 after he played in a series of exhibition matches he organized in Serbia and Croatia with no social distancing or masking required amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The Adria Tour is canceled as Djokovic is the fourth player to test positive for the illness after participating in the matches held in Belgrade and Zadar, Croatia.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.