June 19, 2018 / 5:57 PM / 2 months ago

Nature-loving Djokovic at peace again on grass

LONDON (Reuters) - Less than a fortnight after Novak Djokovic raged out of Roland Garros, threatening not to play at Wimbledon, the Serb was a picture of calm as he opened his grasscourt season on Tuesday.

Tennis - ATP 500 - Fever-Tree Championships - The Queen's Club, London, Britain - June 19, 2018 Serbia's Novak Djokovic reacts during his first round match against Australia's John Millman Action Images via Reuters/Tony O'Brien

Djokovic swapped his tennis shoes for hiking boots in the intervening period and the break clearly worked wonders as he demolished John Millman 6-2 6-1 in the first round of the Queen’s Club championships.

The 31-year-old took a late wildcard into the tournament he last contested in 2010 and looked glad to be there as he produced a dazzling display in the centre court sunshine in front of an appreciative crowd.

A greater test of his form, and the elbow that has troubled him throughout the past year and half and required surgery, will come in the next round against second seed Grigor Dimitrov.

Asked how he had got a galling quarter-final loss to Italian outsider Marco Cecchinato at the French Open out of his system, Monaco-based Djokovic said some tranquility was the key — and leaving his two children at home.

“It was hiking with my wife with no kids for five days, if you really want to know,” he told reporters. “It was a wonderful time after two years with not having a break, only with her without kids, so we managed to do that.

“We were very far away from any tennis court, in nature, and it was the best way to clear the mind and just also have a possibility to slow down.”

Djokovic, whose career has stalled since he won his 12th Grand Slam title at the 2016 French Open, has been battling to return to his best with mixed results.

But there were signs at the French Open, and against Millman on Tuesday, that the spark is returning.

“I can’t really talk about too many negatives. Today, I mean, everything, the focus was there, right intensity every shot. Every shot was working really beautifully,” he said.

Djokovic was barely able to speak after his loss to Cecchinato — but was more forthcoming on Tuesday as he looked back on that loss.

“Considering the circumstances that I was in in the last 12 months, that kind of match loss hurt a lot, because I thought I had a really fair chance to get at least a step further,” he said. “I was starting to play really well.”

His demeanour spoke of a player determined to start carving out some statement wins in the next few weeks as he eyes Wimbledon, scene of three of his Grand Slam titles.

“It’s quite important,” he said of the Dimitrov match. “He’s one of the best players in the world and loves grass.”

Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Larry King

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