Novak Djokovic returns to grass by joining strongest ever Queen’s field

Simon Briggs
The Telegraph
Novak Djokovic had previously cast doubt over his grass court season - UPI / Barcroft Media
Novak Djokovic had previously cast doubt over his grass court season - UPI / Barcroft Media

Novak Djokovic has claimed a late wild card for next week’s Fever-Tree Championships at Queen’s, further strengthening a field that was already shaping up as the strongest in the tournament’s history.

Djokovic last played Queen’s in 2010. He opted to go without a Wimbledon warm-up event the following season, and went on to lift his first title in SW19, which convinced him to opt for a light summer schedule for the next few years.

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But the grass season has been lengthened since then, while Djokovic has lost his former status as the dominant individual on the men’s tour, slipping back to a ranking of No 21 in the world.

Now that he has ceased to win the majority of tournaments that he enters, he needs to work harder to keep his eye in. He played in Eastbourne last year – his most recent title, as it happens – and is now raising his sights by targeting the fiercely competitive Queen’s draw.

Djokovic had caused a stir at the French Open last week when he stormed straight off the court after his quarter-final defeat at the hands of Marco Cecchinato and announced: “I don’t know if I’m going to play on grass.”

His pessimism was widely interpreted as heat-of-the-moment stuff, and this now turns out to be the case. “I have happy memories of reaching the final at Queen’s Club 10 years ago,” said Djokovic in a statement. “[Coach] Marian Vajda and [fitness trainer] Gebhard Phil-Gritsch will be with me in London, and this makes me happy.”

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Meanwhile, Roger Federer gave his first press conference in Stuttgart as he prepares for his return to the court after a three-month break. Federer, who will play world No 54 Mischa Zverev in his opening match, will return to No 1 in the world for the sixth time if he reaches the final of the Mercedes Cup.

“I think that’s a bit of extra motivation,” said Federer, who also confirmed reports that his $140m clothing contract with Nike has lapsed, even if he continues to wear their kit while he decides on his next move. “It has already expired in March and we are in negotiations… Nothing is ruled out, neither my continuity in Nike nor the end of our collaboration.”

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