EASTBOURNE: Novak Djokovic and Angelique Kerber, top seeds at the ATP-WTA Eastbourne event, are targeting successful comebacks this week that they hope will serve them well for Wimbledon.
Djokovic, the world number four playing a pre-Wimbledon event for the first time in seven years, will have coaching advisor Andre Agassi in his corner after the pair’s recent collaboration at the French Open.
Meanwhile Kerber, back from a leg injury and fighting to hang onto the women’s top ranking, pronounced herself fit and eager to get stuck into the grass.
The two-time Eastbourne finalist is also hoping to make it third time lucky at the southern English seaside venue.
“You have to play your best tennis from the first round,” the 29-year-old said. “It doesn’t matter against who you play right now.
“You have to be focusing, and actually you have to play your best.”
Kerber, who trained in Mallorca last week after recovering from her injury, starts in the second round on Tuesday against Kristyna Pliskova, a winner over Briton Naomi Broady 6-2, 6-7 (9/7), 6-1 in the first round.
“I’m feeling good already,” Kerber said. “I had a lot of treatments and three or four days resting. Then I started practising again.
“Now I’m feeling good. It’s nice to be playing again on the grass courts.”
Djokovic has been making himself familiar with the Devonshire Park courts over a few days of training there. The Serb knows that the goal of Wimbledon looms large for all players.
“Wimbledon is one of the most important tournaments in the world for everyone,” he said.
“On this surface, of course, it’s by far the most important. I would like to get some matches under my belt here and prepare.”
Djokovic said Agassi had agreed to travel over from Las Vegas for the event and will stay as long as his player is in contention.
“The eight or nine days that we spent together at Roland Garros were very valuable for me to get to know him, to learn from him,” Djokovic said.
“We shared a lot of experiences on and off the court, you know, things that he has been through that I can relate to and vice versa.”
Djokovic is up against Vasek Pospisil on Tuesday after the Canadian saw off Jiri Vesely 6-3, 6-4 in the first round.
Elsewhere, there was a minor upset on Monday as Jared Donaldson beat eighth seed Diego Schwartzman 7-6 (7/5), 3-6, 7-5. Donald Young joined his fellow American in the second round as he defeated Brit Kyle Edmund 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.
South African Kevin Anderson and Australian Bernard Tomic also advanced to the second round.
On the women’s side, Peng Shuai beat Francesca Schiavone of Italy 6-3 in one of three victories on Monday for Chinese players.
Barbora Strycova added to the misery of former Wimbledon finalist Eugenie Bouchard, defeating the Canadian 6-3, 3-6, 6-2.
And in the second round, Britain’s Heather Watson upset fourth seed Dominika Cibulkova 7-5, 6-4, French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko put out Carla Suarez Navarro 6-3, 0-6, 6-4 and Spaniard Lara Arruabarrena accounted for 16th seed Daria Gavrilova of Australia 2-6, 6-2, 6-3.