Belfast Telegraph

Djokovic feeling 'liberated' by reduced expectations


By Declan Warrington

Novak Djokovic feels "liberated" by the reduced expectations surrounding his prospects for Wimbledon. The Serbian won his first match at the Aegon International at Eastbourne yesterday, defeating Canada's Vasek Pospisil 6-4 6-3 in an hour and 25 minutes amid his preparation for the Grand Slam that starts on Monday.

Inconsistent form over the past 12 months has resulted in Djokovic losing his grip on all four of the sport's Majors and the appointment of Andre Agassi as his coach, as well as a change from his pre-Wimbledon routine.

His presence for the first time at Eastbourne represents his first participation in an official grass-court competition between the French Open and Wimbledon since 2010.

It is also an obvious attempt by the three-time Wimbledon champion to strengthen his chances a year after he failed to retain his All England Club title, and he said: "It is liberating a bit. I was fortunate and privileged to have so much success in the last eight years, and kind of entered most of the tournaments as one of the favourites. So it's good not to be one of the top favourites.

"It releases a bit of the pressure. It's always there. You still feel it. It's part of what I do. And what I have achieved so far has added to those expectations.

"I try to lower those expectations myself, because I really want to be in the moment and try to focus only on what comes up next, which doesn't mean that I don't want to win the trophies."

Djokovic, ranked fourth in the world, was seeded at No.2 yesterday by Wimbledon organisers.

"I want to thank Wimbledon for getting me two spots ahead than I'm actually ranked," he said. "It's probably due to the good results I have had in the last three, four years in Wimbledon.

"Whether it helps or not, I can't say. It doesn't make too much of a difference other than I'm not going to potentially meet Andy (Murray) in semis rather than finals, but it's too far away. As I said, I don't see myself as one of the top few favourites.

"I'm glad that I'm one of the top four seeds, which is important, in a way, but whether I'm two, three, four, it's not a significant difference."

Agassi is to join the 30-year-old, the top seed at Eastbourne, ahead of the start of Wimbledon.

"Andre is following a lot," Djokovic said. "He's watching TV, my matches, trying to follow any of my next opponents.

"Even when we are a distance from each other or not together, we still keep the communication on more or less a daily basis.

"It's still quite early in the relationship, so we are still getting to know each other. But so far we have managed to connect very quickly. That's the great thing."

Belfast Telegraph


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