Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic warm up for Wimbledon with comfortable exhibition wins

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Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic warm up for Wimbledon with comfortable exhibition wins - PA
Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic warm up for Wimbledon with comfortable exhibition wins - PA

While the Hurlingham Club is playing host to a group of retired 'legends' of the tour this week, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic turned up to show just how they continue to outplay the young guns of tennis.

Djokovic, 35, got his grass-court season started by defeating Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime in the blazing hot sun at the west London exhibition event. It was 20-time major champion Djokovic's first visit to the Hurlingham Club and first match since the French Open quarter-final, which he lost to Nadal.

He has opted out of playing on grass up until this point. Like Nadal, 36, he is easing himself back into the surface, with no competitive warm-up action ahead of Wimbledon. But the evidence suggests that, as ever, the reigning Wimbledon champion remains a natural. Djokovic's 6-2, 6-1 win over Auger-Aliassime, 21, who struggled with his serve, was as straightforward as they come.

For Nadal, the most important thing was that there appeared no issues with his right foot during his easy win over Stan Wawrinka. Considering he required nerve-numbing injections on his foot and a host of anti-inflammatories just in order to play pain-free at the French Open, it is a huge win that he is even back here at all.

He revealed last week that he fully intended to play Wimbledon, and looked in high spirits playing a golf tournament at the weekend - which he placed fifth in - in his native Mallorca. While he used a golf buggy in order to rest his foot as much as possible, it all pointed to good signs ahead of his return to the match-court on Wednesday.

“Honestly for me it is positive to play a couple of matches before the competition starts at Wimbledon," Nadal said. "I used to play at Queen’s a long time ago now. I am older now - I can’t manage to play so many matches! So for me it is perfect to play a couple of matches here before Wimbledon starts. That helps me to feel at least some competition before Wimbledon."

Both Nadal and Djokovic have been training at the Wimbledon grounds this week, along two-time champion Andy Murray and US Open Emma Raducanu, who are both making their returns from abdominal injuries.

Novak Djokovic cruised past Felix Auger-Aliassime - GETTY IMAGES
Novak Djokovic cruised past Felix Auger-Aliassime - GETTY IMAGES

But on Thursday Wimbledon will open Centre Court and No 1 Court for players to practise on ahead of the tournament for the first time in its history. Usually, neither get any more than one set played on them, by All England Club members, on the Saturday ahead of the Championship starting.

However this year the move has been taken so as to play in the courts, in an attempt to avoid anymore high-profile injuries caused by players slipping on the lush grass in the first few days of the tournament.

Last year seven-time champion Serena Williams fell during her first-round match, and the injury she sustained to her hamstring kept her out of competition for 51 weeks.

Two 45-minute slots of practice time on the show courts are scheduled for Thursday, and the biggest names in town are expected to get the chance to get to grips with the surface ahead of the rest of the draw. They will be open to practise on for a select few both today and Friday, when the draw will also take place.

Looking ahead to the tournament, Wawrinka said Nadal - for all his injury woes - had to be the favourite. "I don’t know how he's feeling, it looks like normal Rafa," Wawrinka said. "He has been saying he is feeling better and if he is playing he is ready to play his best and to win.

"I think Rafa any time he enters a Grand Slam is going to be one of the favourites, if not the favourite. He won the first two Slams of the year without too many matches before those Grand Slams so he got a lot of confidence so of course he is part of the favourites."