Wimbledon | Nishikori v Djokovic
NOVAK Djokovic has revealed he has gone “back to basics” as he prepares to celebrate his first Centre Court appearance at Wimbledon this year by beating Kei Nishikori to reach the semi-finals.
Djokovic, who reckoned he “deserved” to play the main court, has battled back to form and fitness after a long-term absence caused by elbow trouble.
I think it's going to be new game for us. But he's always like big war for me. I always enjoy playing against him. It's always big challenge Kei NIshikori
And the Serb hopes to put himself back on the Grand Slam winner’s podium for the first since he claimed his 12th and last major title at the French Open in 2016.
The three-time champion, 31, said: “I feel like the big challenge for me, obviously first of all after surgery was to really be able to be comfortable with the change of racket, with different compensations that I’ve made in the motion of my serve.
“My game overall was just disturbed. I didn’t feel comfortable on the court for long time. Indian Wells, Miami, most of the clay court season. I just had to go back to basics and hit as many balls as I can on the practice courts, just get that feel.
“Also psychologically obviously, I was so fortunate to have so much success on the tour over the course of ten-plus years.
“I was top-three player for so many years in a row, it was quite a strange feeling for me not to be able to deliver my game that I know that I possess, that I know I’ve been delivering for so many years. It was frustrating, to be honest.
“But I had to trust the process. I’m still part of that process. But things are looking much better in the last month and a half.
“I felt like in the last month and a half, the level of tennis has been very close to where I would like it to be, where I’m used to having it.”
He is wary of Nishikori.
Djokovic said: “It’s the first time for him in quarterfinals here in Wimbledon. I watched his match today with Gulbis. It was a pretty strange match, to be honest. But he showed mental toughness. That’s something that is very characteristic for him. He’s established, top player.
“Struggled with injuries a little bit. But whenever he’s fit, he can really beat anybody on any tournament. He has proven that in the past.
“He’s a big-match player. He doesn’t get affected too much by the big occasions. In contrary, he actually delivers his best. So that’s what I expect him to do. Hopefully we can have a good match.”
Nishikori, seeded 24 after slipping down from the top-ten largely due to injury, insists his clash with Djokovic is “always like a big war for me”.
He said: “Novak is always good player on grass. He’s playing better and strong again. I’m sure it’s going to be tough.
“I don’t know if we never played on grass. I think it’s going to be new game for us. But he’s always like big war for me. I always enjoy playing against him. It’s always big challenge.
“Maybe I don’t have good result, good record with him, but I always enjoy playing him. He’s one of the best players on the tour. But I think it’s going to be new match for both of us if he wins. We will try to compete and enjoy.”