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

The Herald - Sport - - WIMBLEDON - STU­ART BATH­GATE

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

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