PARIS (Reuters) - They may have been the words of a hurting champion too soon after a crushing defeat but if Novak Djokovic does decide to skip Wimbledon it might be wise, according to Mats Wilander.
Minutes after Djokovic was bundled out of the French Open quarter-finals by inspired Italian Marco Cecchinato, the 31-year-old 12-times Grand Slam winner said he might not play the approaching grasscourt swing.
“Well I guess he’s not ready physically,” Wilander, presenting Eurosport’s flagship Game, Schett and Mats programme told Reuters when hearing of three-times Wimbledon champion Djokovic’s comments.
“Maybe he is further away physically than... or maybe it’s a different approach, maybe he needs to not go on grass because grass is the ultimate confidence killer.
“Even if you play well on grass the bounce is bad, it’s hard to find good practise courts, you can’t really move properly because you slip and slide and if you are really, really keen to get back to your best, which for him is the hardcourt season, logically you would not want to play on the grass.”
Wilander, who won every Grand Slam title apart from Wimbledon, said he was surprised that former world number one Djokovic had made the comments so soon after his match.
The Swede said that the good news for Djokovic fans is that he appeared to have the old fire back, especially in an epic fourth-set tiebreak in which he threw everything at Cecchinato.
“He put the fight in and played good for the matches, I think he’s on his way,” he said. “I don’t think physically it’s ever been a problem, it’s mental. And he seemed to have the drive to not want to lose tennis matches.
“The question is what happens now. But it’s refreshing to see him back. The only thing that was missing was a bit of confidence in the fourth set. He had chances but didn’t dare to pull the trigger quite as freely.
“That’s confidence, he didn’t want to beat himself. When you are confident and winning Slams you never think you will beat yourself and you back yourself to make these shots.”
Wilander said Djokovic might “need a break” after toiling so hard to get back to his top level during the claycourt run.
“Be home for a bit, maybe a break from hotels, go home and give yourself another month block of training time,” he said.
“If he’s playing this well and he is at 80 percent which is what I’ve heard behind the scenes then give himself a chance to be 100 percent and then hope the mental part kicks in.”
Djokovic is ranked at 22 and Wilander said the reason for his drop are ‘fine margins’.
“It’s a three percent drop,” he said. “He doesn’t have the serve or the Del Potro forehand or the Rafa body language.
“He needs that edge and has to be 100 percent.”
Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Toby Davis