LONDON, June 28 – 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 semi-final 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 quarter-finals 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 chases eighth title –
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 quarter-finals.
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.
“Physically I’m definitely in a better place than I was then and I’m using my variety much better,” said Murray, who begins his campaign against Mikhail Kukushkin of Kazakhstan.
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 quarter-final 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”.
Wawrinka has never got beyond the quarter-finals, while fifth-ranked Kei Nishikori can only boast a fourth-round best.
World number six Tomas Berdych was runner-up in 2010 but has since only made the quarter-finals on one occasion.
Among the rest of the top 10, Spain’s David Ferrer was forced to withdraw on the eve of the tournament due to an elbow injury.
US Open champion Marin Cilic is expected to mount a strong challenge, while Milos Raonic, who recently underwent foot surgery, was a semi-finalist in 2014.