Novak Djokovic said he won’t let the disappointment of missing out on a historic run of Grand Slam championships affect his Wimbledon title defense.
The men’s top seed from Serbia will open Wimbledon on Centre Court today against Juan Carlos Ferrero of Spain, two weeks after second-seed Rafael Nadal beat him in the final at Roland Garros. Nadal’s seventh French Open win ended Djokovic’s attempt to become the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to hold all four major titles at the same time.
“It’s behind me now,” Djokovic told reporters at Wimbledon yesterday. “Yes, I was so close, even though there was a slight disappointment after the match because I was aware of the chance that I had in Roland Garros.”
It didn’t take long for Djokovic to put his four-set defeat to Nadal in perspective.
“The day after, I felt good about my tournament, about my achievement in Paris,” Djokovic said. “It was the first time I ever have been in the final of Roland Garros. That’s a step further from all these years that I’ve been playing in Paris. That’s something that made me satisfied. I’m still only 25, so I believe that I have a lot more years and a lot more chances to win Roland Garros.”
Also playing today, six-time champion Roger Federer of Switzerland starts on Court 1 against Spain’s Albert Ramos. That’s followed by a match between two former top-ranked players, Kim Clijsters of Belgium and Serbia’s Jelena Jankovic. Women’s top seed and French Open champion Maria Sharapova of Russia follows Djokovic on Centre Court against Anastasia Rodionova of Australia. U.S. Open champion Samantha Stosur of Australia plays Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain, while former Roland Garros winner Li Na of China meets Ksenia Pervak of Kazakhstan.
Djokovic took the No. 1 spot in tennis away from Nadal after beating him in last year’s final at the All England Club. Now he’s the one being chased by Federer and two-time Wimbledon winner Nadal.
The third-seeded Federer, who could play Djokovic in the semifinals, will reclaim the No. 1 ranking if he wins the title. Nadal has a shot at the top spot if he wins and Djokovic fails to move beyond the quarterfinals.
Djokovic, who took time off after Paris and didn’t play a grass-court tournament before Wimbledon, said he’s not thinking about the rankings.
“It’s not an issue,” he said. “If you worry too much about calculations, you’re going to lose that necessary focus on the court.”
Sixteen-time major winner Federer said he’d rather win another Grand Slam title than become No. 1 again. His last major title was the 2010 Australian Open and he was ousted in the quarterfinals of Wimbledon in the past two years. The last time he was No. 1 was in May 2010, and he’s one week shy of tying Pete Sampras’s record of 286 weeks at the top of the men’s game.
“It’s really titles that interest you the most at this moment,” Federer said in a news conference at Wimbledon two days ago. “They go hand in hand. We’re talking about the pinnacle of the sport.”
Djokovic said winning Wimbledon last year has boosted his confidence on grass.
“I’m playing with more self-belief on this surface, which is the rarest surface we have now in the sport,” Djokovic said. “We don’t get much opportunity to play on grass, only a couple weeks a year. But I realized my dreams last year. I played a perfect tournament. I like the conditions here.”