Ser­bia’s wounded Novak Djokovic looks to heal him­self at Wim­ble­don

The China Post - - SPORTS - BY DAVE JAMES

Three weeks af­ter his heart­break­ing French Open fi­nal de­feat, Novak Djokovic resur­faces to de­fend his Wim­ble­don ti­tle and prove that his Paris scars have healed.

The world num­ber one has stayed res­o­lutely out of the spotlight since his Roland Gar­ros up­set by Stan Wawrinka ended his latest bid to com­plete the ca­reer Grand Slam.

Even his usual pro­lific so­cial media ac­tiv­ity has been re­duced to scraps with a mere half- dozen post­ings on Twit­ter, only one of which pic­tured him work­ing out on a grass court.

De­spite his re­cent low pro­file, his ri­vals have no doubt that the Serb will be fired up to de­fend his Wim­ble­don crown just as he was in 2011 when he cap­tured his maiden ti­tle in Lon­don.

“I’m sure af­ter los­ing the French Open fi­nal he wants more, he wants to come back and win the next big one,” said Wawrinka.

Seven- time Wim­ble­don cham­pion Roger Fed­erer, de­feated by Djokovic in the 2014 fi­nal, also sees the Serb as fa­vorite.

“He is the cham­pion, the world num­ber one and plays well on grass,” said Fed­erer.

Djokovic’s loss to Wawrinka in Paris was just his third in 44 matches this year.

With the Aus­tralian Open al­ready un­der his belt, the shat­ter­ing loss also ended his chances of go­ing on to be­come just the third man in history — and first since 1969 — to clinch a cal­en­dar Grand Slam.

Such Paris dis­ap­point­ments have pre­vi­ously worked in his fa­vor.

His 2011 semi­fi­nal loss to Fed­erer at Roland Gar­ros ended a 41- match win streak that year.

How­ever, just four weeks later, he de­feated Rafael Nadal to se­cure a first Wim­ble­don ti­tle and then went on to his maiden U. S. Open tri­umph.

Djokovic is also the most con­sis­tent of the top play­ers at the ma­jors — the last time he failed to make at least the quar­ter­fi­nals of a Grand Slam was at Roland Gar­ros in 2009.

But he ar­gues that his record some­times works against him.

“I think peo­ple tend to cre­ate more of a story where it’s just me,” he said.

World num­ber two Fed­erer, who won the last of his 17 ma­jors at Wim­ble­don in 2012, will be seeded to meet Djokovic in the July 12 fi­nal.

He will be 34 in Au­gust — the old­est man to win Wim­ble­don in the mod­ern era was Arthur Ashe who was 31 years and 11 months when he tri­umphed at the All Eng­land Club in 1975.

‘ Good omen’

How­ever, de­spite the weight of num­bers sug­gest­ing that his best years are be­hind him, Fed­erer fer­vently be­lieves that another Wim­ble­don is not be­yond him and he was buoyed by his eighth Halle ti­tle at the week­end.

It was his 15th ca­reer grass­court ti­tle and 86th of his ca­reer.

“I hope this is a good omen,” he said.

Andy Mur­ray, the 2013 cham­pion, saw his 2014 cam­paign sab­o­taged by a com­bi­na­tion of back pain and an inspired Grigor Dim­itrov in the quar­ter­fi­nals.

But the 28- year- old world num­ber three, fresh from a record- equal­ing fourth Queen’s Club ti­tle, be­lieves he’s play­ing bet­ter than when he se­cured his his­toric Wim­ble­don tri­umph.

“Phys­i­cally I’m def­i­nitely in a bet­ter place than I was then and I’m us­ing my va­ri­ety much bet­ter,” said Mur­ray.

Two- time cham­pion Rafael Nadal is likely to be seeded out­side of the top eight, mak­ing him a po­ten­tially dan­ger­ous fourth round op­po­nent.

But the Spa­niard, down at 10 in the world — his low­est rank­ing for a decade — is strug­gling to re­dis­cover the form and on- court pres­ence which once made him the sport’s most for­mi­da­ble ob­sta­cle.

The nine- time French Open cham­pion was beaten for only the sec­ond time in his Paris ca­reer by Djokovic in a morale­sap­ping quar­ter­fi­nal loss.

He then clinched the Stuttgart grass- court ti­tle which only proved to be a false dawn as just days later the 29- year- old was los­ing to Alexan­der Dol­go­polov in his Queen’s opener.

His re­cent trips to Wim­ble­don have also been chas­ten­ing af­fairs, fea­tur­ing losses in the sec­ond, first and fourth rounds.

De­spite Wawrinka’s sec­ond ma­jor ti­tle at the French Open, the dom­i­nance of the sport’s four heavy­weights is un­likely to be se­ri­ously threat­ened at Wim­ble­don where Lley­ton He­witt, in 2002, was the last cham­pion from out­side the “Big Four.”

Wawrinka, now at four in the world, has never got be­yond the quar­ter­fi­nals, while fifth- ranked Kei Nishikori can only boast a fourth- round best.

World num­ber six To­mas Berdych was run­ner- up in 2010 but has since only made the quar­ter­fi­nals on one oc­ca­sion.

In the rest of the top 10, David Fer­rer has a best of a lasteight spot as does U. S. Open cham­pion Marin Cilic while Mi­los Raonic, who re­cently un­der­went foot surgery was a semi­fi­nal­ist in 2014.

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