Hot shots brace for grassy test

Tennis Wimbledon : Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams start favourites as the year's third Grand Slam rolls in

Hot shots brace for grassy test

 Novak Djokovic insists his heartbreaking French Open final defeat has been consigned to history as he begins his Wimbledon title defence on Monday.

The world number one had stayed resolutely out of the spotlight since his Roland Garros upset by Stan Wawrinka ended his latest bid to complete the career Grand Slam. But the Serb says he is fired up to defend his Wimbledon crown just as he was in 2011 when he captured his maiden title in London.

"I needed some time off, more mentally rather than physically," said eight-time major winner Djokovic who faces world number 33 German Philipp Kohlschreiber in a tough Monday opener. "I know it could have been useful to play a couple of official matches on grass, but it's not the first time I'm coming straight into Wimbledon."

Djokovic's loss to Wawrinka in Paris was just his third defeat in 44 matches this year.
With the Australian Open already under his belt, the shattering loss ended his chances of going on to become just the third man in history -- and first since 1969 -- to clinch a calendar Grand Slam. But such Paris disappointments have previously worked in his favour.

His 2011 semifinal loss to Roger 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 US 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.

World number two and seven-time Wimbledon champion Federer, who won the last of his 17 majors at the All England Club in 2012, is 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.

Federer fervently believes that another Wimbledon is not beyond him and he was buoyed by his eighth Halle title last weekend.

"If I look at last year, I see more the positives than actually the heart-breaking loss in the final," said Federer, defeated in five sets by Djokovic in 2014.  "I didn't expect myself to right away make the final. It goes to show that last year, I wasn't playing great and I made the finals."

Federer starts his campaign against Bosnia's Damir Dzumhur, who he beat in the French Open third round.

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-equalling fourth Queen's Club title, believes he's playing better than when he secured his historic Wimbledon triumph.

Two-time champion Rafael Nadal is seeded 10 -- his lowest position for a decade. The nine-time French Open champion was beaten for only the second time in his Paris career by Djokovic in a morale-sapping 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.

Nadal joked that he was coming into Wimbledon fully attuned to being on grass.  "I played golf," he smiled as he recalled how he spent his time at home in Mallorca last week.

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".

Top of the charts

NOVAK DJOKOVIC (SRB)

Age: 28. World ranking: 1
Wimbledon best: Champion 2011, 2014
Looked unstoppable until Stan Wawrinka put the skids under his dream of a career Grand Slam at the French Open, but Djokovic remains the overwhelming favourite for a third Wimbledon title.

ROGER FEDERER (SUI)

Age: 33. World ranking: 2
Wimbledon best: Champion 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
Bidding to become the oldest Wimbledon champion of the modern era.

ANDY MURRAY (GBR)

Age: 28. World ranking: 3
Wimbledon best: Champion 2013
This year, he is in a rich vein of form,  boasting a record of just one defeat since his marriage in April.

STAN WAWRINKA (SUI)

Age: 30. World ranking: 4
Wimbledon best: Quarter-finalist 2014
The man with the finest one-handed backhand since Federer copyrighted the shot in his personal playbook will revel in his role as an underdog.

RAFAEL NADAL (ESP)

Age: 29. World ranking: 10
Wimbledon best: Champion 2008, 2010
Nadal? World ranked 10? Still looks like a typing error to many. The 14-time major winner heads to Wimbledon where his last three visits have ended in bitter losses.


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