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Rediff.com  » Sports » Today at Wimbledon: Federer, Djokovic get their campaign underway

Today at Wimbledon: Federer, Djokovic get their campaign underway

July 04, 2017 11:18 IST

Federer begins the pursuit of a record eighth Wimbledon title and a record 85th match win at the grass court major; Djokovic hoping to curb dismal slide

Roger Federer goes through the paces during a training session at Wimbledon on Saturday 

IMAGE: Roger Federer goes through the paces during a training session at Wimbledon on Saturday. Photograph: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

When Roger Federer landed heavily on his knee on his beloved Wimbledon turf 12 months ago, few would have put money on the popular Swiss walking back through the All England Club gates as the favourite to win a 19th grand slam title.

Yet that is the reality facing 84th-ranked Alexandr Dolgopolov when the Ukrainian faces one of Wimbledon's all-time favourite sons in Tuesday's first round match on Centre Court.

Things could not have been more different last July.

That painful tumble in Federer's semi-final defeat by Milos Raonic sparked a chain of events that many feared would end the Swiss great's storied career.

Just days later, he put a full stop to his 2016 season, saying he needed time to receive "more extensive rehabilitation" on his stricken knee which had required surgery months earlier.

But the man who is a month shy of his 36th birthday has been rejuvenated by the enforced six-month break.

After capturing a record 18th grand slam trophy at the Australian Open in January, he is once again proving to be a formidable force -- winning back-to-back titles at Indian Wells and Miami for the first time since 2006.

While he shunned the entire clay court season to give himself "the best chance for Wimbledon", a ninth title at the Halle grass court tournament has put him in the zone for Wimbledon.

"I don't want to be at the mercy of my opponent. I want to take charge, play aggressive myself," Federer, seeking his first title here since 2012, told reporters.

"So for that I need to be fast on my feet and quick in my mind. I just need enough rest so I can play enough inspired tennis."

Considering Dolgopolov has not taken a set off Federer in three meetings, the chances are he will be cannon fodder for the Swiss as Federer begins the pursuit of a record eighth Wimbledon title and a record 85th match win at the grass court major.

Serbia's Novak Djokovic is watched by his coach Andre Agassi during practice at Wimbledon

IMAGE: Serbia's Novak Djokovic is watched by his coach Andre Agassi during practice at Wimbledon. Photograph: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

A lot can happen in 12 months. Just ask Novak Djokovic who came into last year's Wimbledon as holder of all four grand slam titles but has since relinquished his grip on the men's game in spectacular fashion.

The Serb, who begins his campaign for a fourth Wimbledon title against Slovakian Martin Klizan on Centre Court, has not lifted a grand slam trophy since last year's French Open.

It has been a dismal period for Djokovic who has also relinquished his number one ranking and failed to get past the third round in two of his last four grand slam appearances.

He has at least tasted some rare recent success, having broken with tradition to play a pre-Wimbledon warm-up at Eastbourne, where he won his first title since January by beating Gael Monfils last week.

That allowed him to not only tune up his grasscourt game but also lift his spirits after a testing few months.

"Just overall very happy with the way it went, and where my form is at," he told reporters after Saturday's final.

In the women's draw, Germany's world number one Angelique Kerber is in action against Irina Falconi of the United States and third seed Karolina Pliskova, who won the women's tournament at Eastbourne, plays Russian Evgeniya Rodina.