LONDON (AFP) – Novak Djokovic will aim to get his troubled season back on track at Queen’s Club after the former world number one accepted a wild card entry into the Wimbledon warm-up event.
Djokovic is a lowly 21st in the ATP rankings after the struggling Serb’s wretched run continued with an embarrassing French Open quarter-final defeat against Italian journeyman Marco Cecchinato last week.
Following that stunning setback, the 31-year-old had said he might miss Wimbledon, which gets underway on July 2, in a bid to give him time to refocus following a turbulent year.
But Djokovic, a three-time Wimbledon champion, has instead decided to start his preparations for the grass-court Grand Slam earlier than usual by entering the prestigious Queen’s tournament, starting in west London on June 18.
“I am very excited to be playing the Fever-Tree Championships again. I have happy memories of reaching the final at the Queen’s Club 10 years ago and also winning the doubles title,” Djokovic said in a statement released by tournament organisers on Monday.
“The atmosphere is always great and I am looking forward to playing in front of the British crowd again. After the exciting events in Rome and Paris, I’m ready for new challenges.”
Djokovic, beaten by Rafael Nadal in the 2008 Queen’s final, traditionally opts against playing a pre-Wimbledon event, preferring to use a handful of exhibition matches to get his game ready for the grass courts.
It was in doubt whether the 12-time Grand Slam champion would be seen in England at all this year.
Speaking following the Cecchinato loss, he said: “I don’t know if I’m going to play on grass. I cannot give you any answer. I’m just not thinking about tennis at the moment.”
Djokovic hasn’t earned a major title since competing his career Grand Slam by winning the 2016 French Open.
He has failed to reach the semi-finals in any of his last five Grand Slam appearances, while his last two Wimbledons have ended in a third round exit in 2016 and last year’s quarter-final withdrawal due to the elbow injury that troubled him for several months.
But Djokovic, dogged by rumours that he no longer has the motivation and desire to return to the top, hopes his extra time on the grass can spark a revival – starting in his first Queen’s appearance since 2010.
“Grass is very special, it is the rarest of surfaces so I’m happy I’ll have the opportunity to compete at this strong tournament, which will also be a great preparation for Wimbledon,” he said.
“(Coach) Marian Vajda and Gebhard Phil-Gritsch will be with me in London, and this makes me happy.”
Djokovic joins a singles line-up led by world number one and French Open champion Nadal and also featuring Juan Martin del Potro, Marin Cilic and Stan Wawrinka.
Former Wimbledon champion Andy Murray, a five-time Queen’s winner, is registered to make his return in the tournament after a year out of action with a hip injury.