at the Union Buildings in Pretoria
London – Novak Djokovic insists the wrist injury that forced him to pull out of a Wimbledon warm-up event this week won't affect his bid to win the grasscourt Grand Slam.
After being troubled by the right wrist problem since Monte Carlo in April, Djokovic has been taking extra care not to aggravate the injury with Wimbledon just days away.
The 27-year-old felt the injury may have been in danger of flaring up due to the tricky transition from clay to grasscourts and that prompted him to pull out of an exhibition match in London earlier this week.
But he has practised pain-free over the last few days and the 2011 Wimbledon champion expects to be fit enough to make a strong bid to win the All England Club crown for the second time.
“It's the first time that I have problems with the wrist. I started feeling it before Monte Carlo tournament started,” Djokovic told reporters at Wimbledon on Saturday.
“I played Monte Carlo under strange conditions, under a lot of pain. I decided to skip Madrid, which was a good decision, because I played pain-free in Rome and Roland Garros.
“Right now I don't feel any pain. But I felt like when I'm changing surfaces, especially from clay to grass, in the opening few days of the practice here got a little bit of a strange sensation in the wrist.
“Now it's fine, so hopefully it can stay that way.”
Djokovic will need to be at his best physically and mentally as he tries to reverse a worrying recent trend of falling just short of the sport's top prizes.
The Serb has won just one Grand Slam title in the last two years and has lost in five of his last six major finals, including an agonising French Open defeat to Rafael Nadal earlier this month.
It was especially painful as Djokovic has made completing his career Grand Slam of all four major titles his main goal and he felt he had a golden opportunity this time following his victory over the Spaniard on clay at the Rome Masters.
In the circumstances, it was important to get away from tennis for a few days to recover his composure and he headed off to Ibiza for a holiday instead of playing one of the Wimbledon warm-up events.
“Roland Garros in general has taken a lot out of me emotionally. That's the reason why I haven't been taking part in one of the these lead-up events,” he said.
“It was a long claycourt season and I needed four or five days rest to try to get my mind off tennis.
“It helps. Because as much as we love this sport, you need to balance and try to have some recovery time which can recharge your batteries mentally most of all.
“That's what I got, so now I'm very motivated to play Wimbledon.”
Djokovic is ranked second in the world behind Nadal, but he received a boost when Wimbledon chiefs bumped him up to the top seeding ahead of the Spaniard due to his superior recent record on grass.
He will also have former Wimbledon champion Boris Becker to lean on for advice after the German joined his coaching team earlier this year.
With so many recent Grand Slam final defeats on his CV, Djokovic, who starts his Wimbledon campaign against Andrey Golubev, hopes Becker's grasscourt experience can tip the balance of power back in his favour.
“I have to try to improve myself not just on the court, but understand the mental aspect, why I am not able to win a Grand Slam title in last couple of years,” he said.
“So that's something to work on. It's one of the reasons why Boris is onboard.
“I do feel different having Boris, a player who made a mark in this tournament, on my side.” – Sapa-AFP