LONDON (Reuters) - Novak Djokovic will not have long to wait to discover whether his risky pre-Wimbledon schedule was foolhardy or the perfect way to arrive fresh for the defense of his title.
As tradition demands the Serb will open play on Center Court on Monday as defending men’s champion but rather than a gentle loosener the 28-year-old faces a real danger in the form of Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber, the world number 33.
It will be his first competitive match since his French Open final defeat by Stanislas Wawrinka -- a loss that left him mentally frazzled after a punishing year in which he has already bagged the Australian Open and four Masters 1000 titles.
Lleyton Hewitt, in 2003, was the last defending champion to lose in the first round, and Djokovic knows that if he is half-cooked after skipping the grasscourt warm-up events, Kohlschreiber could cause a huge first-day shock.
“Well, if you see Kohlschreiber in the first round, I think you have to stay where it is, take one match at a time,” Djokovic told reporters when asked if he had looked at his possible route to the latter stages.
”Considering the fact I haven’t played any official grass court matches, I don’t allow myself to look more than that.
”Right now I think I‘m 100 percent prepared. Hopefully tomorrow when I get on the court I’ll be able to perform my best because that’s something that is going to be very much needed in order to win against Kohlschreiber.
“It’s one of the toughest first rounds I could get.”
Women’s top seed Serena Williams also opens her account on Monday on Court One against Russia’s Margarita Gasparyan.
The American is bidding for a sixth Wimbledon title which would put her three quarters of the way to a rare calendar slam, something Djokovic had been tipped to achieve before falling to Wawrinka in the French Open final this month.
“If she manages to do that, obviously she’ll just confirm that she‘s, if not the greatest, then definitely one of the greatest tennis players that ever played the game,” Djokovic said of the 33-year-old who has 20 grand slam singles titles -- third on the all-time list behind Margaret Court (24) and Steffi Graf (22).
Wawrinka will share the Centre Court stage with Djokovic on Monday when the fourth seed takes on Joao Sousa of Portugal while women’s fourth seed Maria Sharapova, beaten by Williams in the Australian Open final, plays Briton Johanna Konta.
Women’s champion Petra Kvitova will hope to have shaken off a sore throat by the time she opens Centre Court on Tuesday against Dutchwoman Kiki Bertens.
Home favorite Andy Murray and seven-times champion Roger Federer also start on Tuesday.
Reporting by Martyn Herman; editing by Toby Davis