London: Novak Djokovic has vowed to prove he can thrive on grass as the Serb returns to action at Wimbledon for the first time since the end of his epic 43-match winning run.
Djokovic has been in the best form of his career over the last six months, winning the Australian Open and four Masters titles before finally losing against Roger Federer in the French Open semi-finals.
That defeat halted Djokovic's winning run which had started with the Davis Cup triumph in December and left him one short of equalling John McEnroe's record run of 42 successive victories at the start of the season.
It also meant he would remain behind world number one Rafael Nadal in the rankings.
After losing to Federer in Paris, Djokovic opted to pull out of the Wimbledon warm-up at Queen's to allow his mind and body time to recover.
That deprived the 24-year-old of valuable game time on grass, a surface which he has struggled to cope with in the past.
Djokovic has lost in two Wimbledon semi-finals and has never won a grasscourt title, but he believes he is in good shape to end that drought at the All England Club this year.
"I feel good physically and mentally. I've had my strongest approach to Wimbledon because the last six months has been the best six months of my career," Djokovic said.
"That has given me a lot of confidence. I didn't play in Queen's because I had to take some time to rest.
"I have played a lot of match practices with different players in the last couple of days and then one exhibition in Stoke Park. So I think it will be enough.
"For me, this is the most important tournament in the world. I look forward of playing in it."
However, Djokovic concedes that his baseline style is better suited to hard and clay courts rather than the grass, which can trouble players with its lower bounce and faster pace.
"It's really hard to get from the slowest to the fastest surface in just couple of days' time and to really get used to it," he said.
"I did have some changes in my team in the past. I brought in Mark Woodforde in order to get more to the volley, get more to the net, have some variety but it didn't work out.
"Even so I think I have to use the groundstrokes that I have and finish off the point on the net. It is the perfect surface for it."
Djokovic has no doubts he can shake off any psychological damage from the end of his winning run.
"It was obviously a big match, a lot to play for, but across the net was a player who played better that day," he said.
"Because of that, it didn't take me much time to recover. I didn't play on the level that I could, but I played well. He just played better.
"It was unfortunate that the loss had to come at that time but, look, that's sport. I've lost before. I know how it feels."
Even with his impressive form this year, most experts regard Federer and Nadal as the Wimbledon favourites and Djokovic agrees.
"I guess you can always put Federer and Nadal in front of everybody else to win Wimbledon because they have been so successful on the grass courts in past year," he said.
"Obviously results wise Federer is the greatest ever; he has won the most Grand Slams.
"He's still up there but Nadal has been incredible the last couple of years. He's won the Olympics, he has won Davis Cup, he has won everything that a tennis player can imagine."
First Published: Saturday, June 18, 2011, 23:57