Novak Djokovic admits he was flattered to discover Andy Murray and his coach Ivan Lendl are working overtime to end his two-year reign as Wimbledon champion.
Djokovic holds all four Grand Slam titles after winning the French Open earlier this month and the world number one is heavily favoured to defend his crown at the All England Club.
Murray has been Djokovic’s most consistent rival over the last six months, but the Serb has won 13 of their last 15 meetings, including at the Australian and French Open finals this year.
It was that failure to get the better of Djokovic which played a key role in the world number two’s decision this month to reunite with Lendl, who was Murray’s coach when he defeated Djokovic in the 2013 Wimbledon and 2012 US Open finals.
Lendl announced his return to the fray by claiming he and Murray would do all they could do end Djokovic’s spell as the preeminent force on the men’s tour.
“It’s flattering to hear that,” Djokovic said. “I know there’s been a lot of talk about a potential match-up between Andy and me, and with Ivan coming to his team, but it’s still very early.
“We have to be respectful to all the players at Wimbledon, more than 120 players, so we take it by step by step.”
Djokovic’s coach Boris Becker said he was surprised by Murray’s decision to go back to his former coach given the Scot’s excellent recent form, but the world number one believes it is a good move.
“I don’t think it’s a surprising decision from Andy,” Djokovic said.
“When Ivan was his coach Andy won a couple of Grand Slams, an Olympic gold medal and made the best results in his career.
“I think it was a logical move for him to take. They’re a good team so it’s going to be an interesting tournament.”
While Murray spent last week sealing a record fifth title at Queen’s, Djokovic has not played a competitive match since winning the French Open almost three weeks ago. The three-time Wimbledon champion instead began honing his grass-court game at The Boodles on Wednesday, an exhibition event, where he lost 6-3, 7-5 to world number 11 David Goffin.
Regardless of his low-key preparation, Djokovic heads to Wimbledon in high spirits after a first success at Roland Garros brought him the last major title missing from his collection.
“There is certainly a great sense of relief, no doubt about it,” Djokovic said.
“Of course I am very proud and thrilled to be able to hold all four grand slam titles at the same time. It’s a remarkable achievement for my team and I.
“But we’re moving on, it’s back on grass now and starting from scratch.”
As well as the calendar Grand Slam, Djokovic could still win the Golden Slam if he adds an Olympic gold medal to that collection.
Golfer Rory McIlroy has announced he will not be travelling to Rio because of concerns regarding the Zika virus, but Djokovic has no intention of withdrawing.
“No, I don’t. I’m still planning to go and it’s going to stay that way,” he added.
Djokovic and Murray are on course for a Wimbledon final showdown after being confirmed as the top two seeds for the grass-court Grand Slam.
World number one Djokovic and second ranked Murray will be seeded in those positions, All England Club officials announced on Wednesday, meaning they can’t meet until the final as they will be placed at opposite ends of Friday’s draw.
Djokovic is bidding to win Wimbledon for the fourth time and third year in a row as the Serb chases a rare calendar Grand Slam.
Murray is aiming to win his third Grand Slam title and his first since he beat Djokovic in the 2013 Wimbledon final to become the first British male singles champion at the All England Club for 77 years.
The Scot has lost 13 of his last 15 matches against Djokovic, including this year’s Australian and French Open finals, but he has won their last two meetings on grass and is in fine form after lifting the Queen’s Club title for a record fifth time last week.
If the world’s top two make the Wimbledon title match it would be a record-equalling eighth Grand Slam final between them. Djokovic has defeated Roger Federer in the last two Wimbledon finals and the Swiss legend will be seeded third in his bid for a record eighth Wimbledon title.
Federer, a 17-time Grand Slam winner, hasn’t won a major title since lifting the Wimbledon trophy in 2012 and has endured an injury-plagued year that saw him miss the French Open.
Federer’s compatriot Stan Wawrinka is seeded fourth and Japan’s Kei Nishikori is the fifth seed.
World number 10 Richard Gasquet has been moved up to the seventh seeding after reaching the Wimbledon semi-finals last year, while 2014 US Open champion Marin Cilic is lifted from a world ranking of 13 to a seeding of ninth.
Defending champion Serena Williams will be top seed in the women’s draw as the American looks to equal Steffi Graf’s Open era record by sealing a 22nd Grand Slam triumph.
File picture of Ivan Lendl with Andy Murray during their previous association.