LONDON (Reuters) - Having picked himself up after the disappointment of failing to complete his grand slam collection in Paris, Novak Djokovic begins his Wimbledon defense looking for a repeat of last year’s “perfect tournament”.
Djokovic begins his Wimbledon campaign against Spain’s Juan Carlos Ferrero, while six-times champion Roger Federer and women’s world number one Maria Sharapova are also in action on the tournament’s opening Monday.
Djokovic will be playing his first match since his hopes of becoming only the third man to hold all four major titles at the same time were ended in the final of the French Open by Rafa Nadal earlier this month.
Ferrero, who topped the men’s rankings in 2003, but has had to battle against injury and loss of form, will provide the Serb with an intriguing challenge.
“He was a former number one of the world; idol of many generations back in Spain; he’s a Grand Slam winner; Davis Cup winner; somebody really that people appreciate,” Djokovic said of his first round opponent.
“Everybody who follows tennis, especially us, the tennis players, we really respect him a lot.
“He is always dangerous. If you look at him now, I think he’s playing equally well as he was playing four, five years ago. Now it’s just a matter of his fitness and his confidence on the court.
“He definitely has a lot of experience playing on the big stage, so I’m not underestimating him, that’s for sure. It’s going to be a good first‑round match.”
As champion Djokovic will kick off the action on Centre Court, where he beat Nadal 12 months ago to go top of the world rankings and win his first Wimbledon title.
“I realized my dreams last year,” he said.
“I played a perfect tournament. I like the conditions here. So I’m confident before the start of 2012.”
Federer is hoping to reach his first final at Wimbledon since 2009 when he won his sixth and final title and begins his tournament against Spain’s world number 43 Albert Ramos.
“I’ve never played Ramos before, so I have to study or hear as well about what to expect from him,” Federer said.
Women’s world number one Sharapova is aiming to follow-up the French Open title she won earlier this month with a second Wimbledon crown and plays Australia’s Anastasia Rodionova second on Centre Court.
The statuesque Russian was launched into the celebrity stratosphere when she beat Serena Williams to win her first major at Wimbledon as a 17-year-old in 2004, but suffered the disappointment of a surprise final defeat to Czech Petra Kvitova last year.
“If you’re coming off a French Open win or a final it’s the toughest turnaround,” she said.
“As much as you want to celebrate and enjoy, you come here and it’s like a whole new ball game.
“But I think that’s the beauty of tennis. There’s so much out there to achieve. It always seems like it’s back to back, so that’s nothing really new.”
Editing by Alison Wildey