Tennis

No grass courts, no problem for Novak Djokovic

Serb believes training in hot and humid Belgrade will help in his Wimbledon title defence

Lack of grass courts in Serbia will not be detrimental to Novak Djokovic's bid to defend his Wimbledon title, the world No. 1 said in the early stages of his training for the July 1-14 tournament at the All England Club.

"Find me a grass court in Belgrade and I will practise there," Djokovic joked when asked last week by reporters why he chose a hardcourt complex in the Serbian capital's centre to start his preparations.

"We don't have any in Serbia, do we? I am really hopeful that we will build some grass courts soon enough, but these hard courts will do for the time being.

"The reason I am training here at the moment is because it's the most similar surface to grass in terms of ball speed and player movement."

Djokovic topped the draw for Wimbledon yesterday, with Roger Federer named the second seed, bumping Rafael Nadal to third despite being ranked below the Spaniard.

Djokovic, who is aiming for a fifth Wimbledon title and his 16th Grand Slam crown, plans to play only one or two exhibition matches in the build-up to the grass-court Major.

Asked why he changed the routine and skipped this year's Queen's tournament in London, Djokovic pointed out that whereas he needed as much action as he could get ahead of last year's tournament, he opted for a different approach in 2019.

"The situation is a bit different this time because I played very few matches prior to last year's Wimbledon due to my injury and the elbow surgery," he said.

"I plummeted down to 22nd on the ATP Tour but the extensive layoff gave me enough time to prepare for Wimbledon by entering the Queen's tournament as a warm-up.

"This year, the exertions of a lengthy claycourt season prompted me to skip Queen's and go straight to Wimbledon."

Djokovic was exchanging stinging baseline shots with compatriot Viktor Troicki, a close friend and also a member of Serbia's 2010 Davis Cup winning team, in hot and humid conditions which, he said, would play into his hands.

"I can't really complain because I chose to come to Belgrade this time to see my family en route from the French Open to London," he said.

"The weather could actually be a blessing in disguise because it will probably be much cooler in London so training in this searing heat might increase my fitness levels.

"That aside, grass is the rarest surface we play on and it requires a very specific routine and style of play. It requires a different approach and adaption time."

Having missed a chance to win four Grand Slam tournaments in a row for the second time in his career when he lost to Dominic Thiem in last month's French Open semi-finals, Djokovic said he was heading to Wimbledon almost devoid of pressure.

"I put a lot of pressure on myself before the French Open to make it four Grand Slams in a row again but, having failed this time, I am going to Wimbledon with less weight on my shoulders as it's the start of a new cycle," he said.

"I always have the highest ambitions and this year is no different. I am top of the rankings and defending my Wimbledon title, hence I am hoping to go all the way again.

"However, reality can be very different. Apart from the usual suspects, there is a bunch of other players who are strong contenders at Wimbledon.

"Federer and Nadal are always among the top candidates of course and the three of us should be the favourites to win the title. It will be a tough tournament and I will have to take it one step at a time, match by match."- REUTERS

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