TOP seed Novak Djokovic begins his quest for a second Wimbledon title this afternoon, when he meets Andrey Golubov of Pakistan, and the Serb believes the competition is both tougher and broader this year.
The 2011 winner lost to Andy Murray in last year’s final, and those two have been members of a four-man oligarchy that has ruled here since 2003.
It was then, a year after Lleyton Hewitt won his only title, that Roger Federer claimed the first of the seven titles he has won so far. Rafael Nadal has won two, in 2008 and 2010.
In Britain at least, we still think of that quartet as the big four of the men’s game, but Djokovic is wary of threats from all sorts of quarters.
“I think it’s going to be an open tournament,” he said yesterday. “You know, top players have been very consistent obviously with their results, in the Grand Slams especially.
“But I feel like there is a new wave of players, especially the younger generation, like [Grigor] Dimitrov and [Milos] Raonic and [Kei] Nishikori, [Bernie] Tomic, those kind of players, that have proven before that they can win against the top guys in the big events.
“This can easily happen here. Grass is a very rare surface in our sport.
“There is only a few weeks in the year that we play on this surface. So especially for the top players, for us who haven’t played a lead‑up event, who don’t have a few official matches under the belt, it’s going to take us some time to get into match play on this surface.
“That’s where it gets very dangerous, especially in the opening rounds. If you have some big server like [Ivo] Karlovic, [John] Isner, somebody coming up the opposite way, you have to be ready to play tiebreaks.
“By the way, I practised today with Ivo. You can imagine we played a few tiebreaks. That’s what is expecting you on the grass.”
There was a sign in 2013 of what Djokovic is anticipating this fortnight when Jerzy Janowicz of Poland reached the last four, while Nadal and Federer were both eliminated early on.
“I think this tournament may have some surprises, like it was last year,” Djokovic continued.
“It’s very tricky for top players. Still you don’t feel very comfortable.
“The players you are playing against who are lower ranked, they have played a tournament or two before coming in. So they have more matches. They have nothing to lose.
“They have this confidence about them on the court.
“I wouldn’t say it’s so obvious that the usual suspects will reach the final stages.”