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For the third time in his career

Djokovic ready for title defence

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Originally published on 27/06/16 00:00

One of the many traditions at the All England Club is that the men’s defending champion plays the first match on Centre Court on Day One. A champion here in 2011, 2014 and 2015, it is a privilege that Djokovic says will never grow old.

“It's going to be the first match on the untouched grass,” said the world No.1.  “That's probably one of the most special tennis matches that you get to experience as a professional tennis player.”

This year, the match will have a little added spice; Djokovic’s opponent is British wildcard James Ward, who will count on home support as he takes on the reigning champion, who arrives at SW19 in possession of all four major titles.

“I think I've never faced Ward before,” said Djokovic. “Every time you face an opponent for the first time, it's always important to start off well and not allow your opponent to take his chances and opportunities.

“Obviously I know that he doesn't have much to lose. Centre Court is one of the cradles of our sport, hopefully it will be packed, and we can enjoy a great match.”

Djokovic is bidding to become only the fourth man in the Open era to win three successive titles at the All England Club. Victory this year would see him join Bjorn Borg, Pete Sampras and Roger Federer in the history books.

As he has done in the past five years, Djokovic kicks off his Championships campaign without any official grass court matches under his belt. The Serb, who played an exhibition match against David Goffin at The Boodles last week, admits he needed time to rest, both physically and mentally, after finally completing his career Grand Slam at Roland Garros.

“It's been many years that I haven't played any leadŠ—•up event to Wimbledon,” he said.  “That's due to the very busy clay court schedule, especially the first six months of the year where I'm very thankful to get as many matches under my belt as possible.

“I decided not to [play a warm-up event] because winning Roland Garros was obviously one of the most memorable and beautiful moments of my career.  Also it took a lot out of me.  I thought that it's more important for me to just rejuvenate and rest a little bit from tennis and then come back preparing for Wimbledon.”

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For the third time in his career
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