Novak Djokovic timing his return to form in time for tilt at fourth Wimbledon title

Roger Federer might appear at his imperious best, while Rafael Nadal has thrived in the opening week at Wimbledon, but one man you can’t write off is Novak Djokovic.

While Federer and Nadal have dominated the tennis landscape over the past two years – sharing the last six Grand Slam titles since the 2017 Australian Open – the Serb has had to contend with a decline in form and confidence after an elbow injury.

Twelve months ago, Djokovic was forced to retire from a quarter-final encounter against Tomas Berdych after the problem became too serious to continue playing with. The former world No 1 quickly announced he would skip the rest of the season.

Journey back to title contention

Djokovic returned from his six-month injury hiatus in time for the Australian Open but he suffered a disappointing fourth-round exit to Hyeon Chung.

After undergoing a “small medical intervention” on the injury Djokovic was forced to take further time away from the sport.

It is easy to forget he had dominated tennis during a memorable 2015 campaign – when he reached all four Grand Slam titles, losing only at the French Open.

Did you know…

Djokovic won his maiden French Open title in 2016 to complete the sweep of all Grand Slam titles. The victory became known as the ‘Nole Slam’, as he held all four majors.

Back-to-back opening match defeats at Indian Wells and Miami would follow and Djokovic took the decision to split with coaches Andre Agassi and Radek Stepanek.

Djokovic was struggling for belief in his game and after a period of reflection went back to his former coach Marian Vajda, who had been instrumental in his previous success.

Defeats to Martin Klizan and Kyle Edmund in Barcelona and Madrid raised further questions but a run to the Rome semi-finals was backed up with progress to the French Open quarter-finals.

After accepting a wild card to play at Queen’s Club, the 12-time Grand Slam champion produced some impressive performances before squandering a match point to lose against Marin Cilic in the final.

What chance of Wimbledon glory?

The three-time winner at the All England Club flatly dismissed the notion he was a favourite for the Wimbledon title at the Fever-Tree Championships last month. But having made the last-16 he is firmly in contention.

Djokovic, seeded 12th, finds himself in the lower half of the draw – away from defending champion Roger Federer – enhancing his chances of reaching the latter stages.

Unseeded Karen Khachanov awaits in the fourth round on Monday. The meeting will be the first between the pair and despite the Russian possessing a strong all-round game, Djokovic should have too much grass-court experience for the world No 40.

Wimbledon Men’s Singles – Last 16 Top Half Roger Federer (1) v Adrian Mannarino (22) Gael Monfils v Kevin Anderson (8) Mackenzie McDonald v Milos Raonic (13) John Isner (9) v Stefanos Tsitsipas (31) Bottom Half Karen Khachanov v Novak Djokovic (12) Kei Nishikori (24) v Ernests Gulbis Juan Martin del Potro (5) v Gilles Simon Jiri Vesely v Rafael Nadal (2)

Once in the quarter-finals either Kei Nishikori or Ernests Gulbis await – Djokovic holds a vastly superior record against both.

The 31-year-old would then likely meet the winner of Nadal against Juan Martin del Potro in a potentially fascinating semi-final match up.

Should Djokovic reach the showpiece then he would in all likelihood face Federer. Despite the Swiss great’s unquestionable standing on the surface it is in fact the Serb who has won their last two meetings at Wimbledon.

Hugely respected but diminishing affection?

The former world No 1 has struggled to earn the same adoration his counterparts Federer and Nadal have received during their careers and his displeasure at the behaviour from some sections of the Centre Court crowd was made clear during his post-match press conference.

Federer and Nadal have become known for their ability to remain calm under pressure while Djokovic has spoken freely about his desire to avoid displaying too much negative energy on court – albeit he faced a vociferous Centre Crowd in his match with Edmund.

“When playing high-intensity matches where one serve or one shot can really swing the momentum one or the other side, obviously there is a lot of accumulation of emotions, especially in the decisive moments of the set and matches,” Djokovic said.

“Sometimes you express yourself in a positive or negative way. Of course, I don’t like when I throw a racket or scream, but I have to accept that I’m a human being like anybody else, that I can feel the pressure as everybody else.

“My interaction with the crowd, I thought had good things and not that great things. I just reacted the way I thought it was fair, the way they reacted to me.”

Djokovic’s on-court determination is unquestionable and he appears to have rediscovered his thirst for Grand Slam glory.

If he can manage his emotions at the pivotal stages and impress his game style then who is to predict against him winning a 13th major triumph.

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Our next tennis action comes from the German Open in Hamburg. Watch the action live on Sky Sports Arena from Monday, July 23 from 10am.

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