Rivals prepared on grass but Djokovic insists he will be better for all the rest
The pain of a Paris defeat in the one Grand Slam he has never won persuaded defending champion he should take a break
WHEN it comes to making the annual transition from clay to grass, Novak Djokovic believes that a rest is as good as a change. This year in particular, after his stunning defeat by Stan Wawrinka in the French Open final, the world No 1 is convinced he has taken the right approach by missing out on the main grass-court warm-up tournaments as he prepares for the defence of his Wimbledon title.
Andy Murray won Queen’s for the fourth time a week ago, Roger Federer Halle for the eighth. Rafael Nadal took the Stuttgart title – but Djokovic, who opens that defence against Philipp Kohlschreiber on Centre Court on Monday, contented himself with a low-key exhibition match at Boodles. Asked if he thought that gave his three main rivals a head start on him, the top seed insisted that he had done something similar in the past without harming his chances, and that he needed time off, above all for mental recuperation, after that loss at Roland Garros.
“Last couple of years I haven’t been playing any lead-up tournament to Wimbledon and I still managed to play finals two years ago and to win the title last year, even though my rivals like Murray, Federer, Nadal, have been winning grass-court tournaments in the previous years as well leading up to Wimbledon,” Djokovic said. “It’s not of my concern, honestly. I just want to get myself in a best possible shape.
“Not just Roland Garros, but all the five months of the year have been really intense for me. I played a big amount of matches. Before Roland Garros, I’ve lost only two. I had one of the best season starts in my career.
“Of course, Roland Garros final wasn’t easy. All in all, it was another great tournament. But I needed some time to just mentally recover. More than physical rest, I needed that emotional, mental rest to recharge my batteries and get myself in a proper state of mind so I can start all over again.
“Took me some time really to recover and to rest after Paris. I didn’t want to think about tennis too much. I spent time with my family, just done other things. Got myself on the court about 10 days ago, started practising on grass. Right now I think I’m also 100 per cent prepared.”
Speaking at the traditional champion’s eve-of-tournament press conference, Djokovic was asked to respond to an allegation that his coach, Boris Becker, had effectively admitted to on-court coaching – something that is banned under tennis rules and can lead, at the umpire’s discretion, first to a warning, then the loss of a point, and in an extreme situation to disqualification. Becker revealed during an interview on Radio 5 Live on Saturday that he had “ways to tell” Djokovic during a match whether he was doing the right thing, saying:
“There are moments when he looks up and he needs assurance that what he is doing is right,” the former champion said. “And then we have our ways about it to tell him it’s good or tell him it’s bad. And then it’s up to him to change it.”
Djokovic, who has twice been fined at the Australian Open for on-court coaching in recent years, said there was nothing wrong about the contact between him and Becker, claiming the interaction was closer to moral support. “I don’t think that we’re cheating,” he continued. “I don’t think that’s how you can call it. I mean, there are special ways of, I would say, communication.
“As he [Becker] mentioned, the way