Novak Djokovic completes ‘best possible build-up’ to Wimbledon
Serb continues his unbeaten run against Gael Monfils to win in Eastbourne
Novak Djokovic celebrates victory against Gael Monfils in the final of the Aegon International Eastbourne at Devonshire Park Lawn Tennis Club. Photograph: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images
Novak Djokovic landed his first title since January as he triumphed at the Aegon International in Eastbourne.
An assured victory over Gael Monfils gave the Serbian the perfect boost ahead of Wimbledon, and justified his late decision to head to the English south coast for a week of match practice.
Djokovic came through 6-3 6-4 against Frenchman Monfils, and now heads to London in pursuit of a fourth Wimbledon success.
Victory maintained Djokovic’s 100 per cent record against Monfils, who took the result in good humour and said: “We played 14 times and it’s 14-0, so well done again.”
Champion Djokovic said: “This is the best possible build-up and preparation for what’s coming next week and hopefully I’ll be able to take it from here.”
Djokovic has spoken this week about feeling “liberated” of pressure after a dip in form, which has seen him relinquish all four of the Grand Slams that he owned 12 months ago.
The Serbian feels the focus is on others, but that could soon change.
He has steadily played himself into form, and will feel a growing confidence when he begins his campaign against Slovakia’s Martin Klizan on Tuesday.
With Andre Agassi already on his coaching team for the coming fortnight, Djokovic has made a second addition to his ranks by bringing in the former Wimbledon semi-finalist Mario Ancic as extra support.
That was confirmed by the world number four on Saturday, with 33-year-old Ancic, now an investment banker, being drawn back to tennis on a short-term arrangement.
Djokovic began 2017 by beating Andy Murray to claim a title in Doha but by his high standards it had been a lean year since.
The same could not be said for Karolina Pliskova, who cemented her status as one of the big favourites for Wimbledon by winning the women’s title in Eastbourne.
The Czech world number three defeated Caroline Wozniacki 6-4 6-4 to go one better than last year, when she was beaten in the final by Dominika Cibulkova.
Pliskova has been one of the stand-out players of the last 12 months, reaching her first Grand Slam final at the US Open.
The big-hitting 25-year-old was also a quarter-finalist at the Australian Open and a semi-finalist at the French Open and is now looking to reach the latter stages at Wimbledon for the first time having never been past the second round.
Referencing her near miss last year, Pliskova said: “Definitely this feels better. I was hoping I could go one step further and lift the trophy and that’s what I did.
“I feel quite okay on grass. I’m still waiting for some good results at Wimbledon but I reached the final here as well last year.
“I know it’s going to be tough to do well in Wimbledon, a lot of matches this week, but I’m going to try.”
Pliskova will hope to follow in the footsteps of the last Czech winner of the Eastbourne title, Jana Novotna, who went on to lift the Wimbledon trophy in 1998.