Novak Djokovic takes wild card into Queen’s Club

All that analysis and speculation about Novak Djokovic skipping the grass-court season can now be consigned to the trash.

The 31-year-old Serb has taken a wild card into the Queen’s Club tournament.

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He was given what’s called an “A+ wild card”, because he is on the ATP Tour 500 “premier player list”. The tournament still has two wild cards to hand out.

Djokovic doesn’t play grass-court warmup events too often.

It will be the first time Djokovic has played Queens’ Club since 2010, when he lost his second match to Xavier Malisse of Belgium. 

He reached the final in 2008, losing to Rafael Nadal after defeating Janko Tipsarevic, Lleyton Hewitt and David Nalbandian to get there. And then, the following year, he chose Halle and reached the final there.

Since 2010, Djokovic had only played once. He took a late wild card into the smaller Eastbourne event last year, the week before Wimbledon, and won that.

“Grass is very special”

Here’s the quote from the press release, in which Djokovic speaks in perfect sentences, remembers the brand-new sponsor’s name, mentions his previous tournaments and even enumerates the members of his staff who will be with him.

(Press-release quotes are an art form unto themselves, aren’t they?)

 ‘I am very excited to be playing the Fever-Tree Championships again. I have happy memories of reaching the final at The Queen’s Club 10 years ago and also winning the doubles title. The atmosphere is always great and I am looking forward to playing in front of the British crowd again. After the exciting events in Rome and Paris, I’m ready for new challenges. Grass is very special, it is the rarest of surfaces so I’m happy I’ll have the opportunity to compete at this strong tournament, which will also be a great preparation for Wimbledon. Marian Vajda and Gebhard Phil-Gritsch will be with me in London, and this makes me happy.’

He did indeed win the Queen’s Club doubles title in 2010, paired with Jonathan Erlich of Israel. They won match tiebreaks in their last four matches to take it. 

It is, surprisingly, the only doubles title of his career, although he doesn’t play that often.

Big-time field

Roger Federer may be in Halle, Germany next week. But all eyes will be on the venerable Queen’s Club, which has put together a tremendous field this year.

Djokovic joins French Open champion Nadal, Andy Murray (hopefully), Juan Martin del Potro, Marin Cilic and Stan Wawrinka.

Also in the field are Kevin Anderson, David Goffin and Grigor Dimitrov.

In all (barring the inevitable withdrawals), six of the top 10 and 11 of the top 20 will be on hand, as well as Djokovic, Nick Kyrgios and Canadians Denis Shapovalov and Milos Raonic. 

British lefty Cameron Norrie also received a wild card.

Change of heart

Much bandwidth was frittered away in the wake of Djokovic’s dramatic press conference, and rather vague response following his loss to Marco Cecchinato at the French Open.

It was interpreted by many as being some sort of definitive statement that he was seriously considering skipping Wimbledon. 

Faced with the automatic and inevitable question from the British press about the grass – and in a state where he might well have wanted to throw all of his rackets into the Seine – his answer was succinct:

We Tweeted at the time that it was in all likelihood an automated response to the question he (and all the other top players) get from the British press every year, once they’ve lost in Paris.

Given that Djokovic is one of the rare top players who most often doesn’t play any of the warmup events, he gets a question about whether he will have a change of schedule every year. And that’s likely what he thought he was answering.

That turned out to be the case.

After a few days to cool off and turn the page on the defeat, and having played some very good tennis in Paris, he’s hopping back in the saddle.

Djokovic was unlikely to skip a Grand Slam. There are obligations to his sponsors and all sorts of other factors. 

Plus, he’s a three-time Wimbledon champion.

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